Putinist characteristics of Hungarian government in action

Attempts to control the funding of NGOs. Attempts to label NGOs that criticize the government as serving the interest of other political parties. Origo.hu, largest online news portal publishes evidence on misuse of public funds by a prominent Fidesz politican. The politician, Janos Lazar places the editor-in-chief and Origo.hu under pressure. The editor-in-chief was displaced yesterday.

Norwegian NGO Fund, which is only a small portion of the Norwegian Civil Grant, supports NGOs in several European countries, including Hungary. The Fund is operated by a consortium of four foundations in Hungary (Ökotárs Foundation, Autonomia Foundation, DemNet - Foundation for Development of Democratic Rights, Carpathian Foundation). High profile Fidesz politician and Minister János Lázár opened a debate about the distribution of the Fund’s money being impartial; according to him, foundations in the consortium are linked to left-wing green party LMP. Norway strictly declined the allegations and publicly ensured its satisfaction with the management of the Fund in Hungary. Last Friday, the government made public the list of recipients it considered problematic for "leftist political ties", such as the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union or the investigative journalism portal atlatszo.hu. Yesterday governmental inspectors visited offices of the foundations managing the grants, while the government said their tax number can be legally suspended if they refuse to submit to governmental examination.

Last night news came to light that editor-in-chief of leading online newspaper Origo.hu, Gergő Sáling's contract was terminated. Journalists of the site supported the allegation that it happened because of recent articles unveiling possible misuse of public funds. Namely, Origo.hu after winning a freedom of information lawsuit revealed the details of a trip during which Mr. Lazar spent 2 M HUF (~9000 USD) on accommodation. The management of Origo.hu refuses the allegations.

Both the fight on the NGOs and the repression of online media, the last ground of free speech in Hungary resembles of Putin’s Russia and the aspiration to silent the last critical voices.

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