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Persecution of Human Rights Activists and Anti Fascists

Persecution of Human Rights Activists and Anti Fascists

Government actions against NGOs were not dominating Hungarian politics in the first half of 2015. At the end of January 2015, a court in Budapest ruled that the police violated the law when its anti-corruption unit searched the headquarters of the Ökotárs Foundation in September 2014. In its statement, the Ökotárs Foundation welcomed the decision, but expressed concern about "political pressure" and urged the government not to use power to exert such pressure.

Another example of ongoing government pressure on NGOs are the tax audits launched in January and February 2015 into seven organisations that were deemed hostile to the government as early as 2014. Despite this, no violations were found.

Nevertheless, on January 10, 2015, one of Fidesz party leaders, Antal Rohan, announced in an interview with the pro-government HírTV television channel that an investigation into the financing of anti-government protests had been opened. Opposition parties and anti-government activists reacted to Rogan's accusatory commentary with a mixture of scepticism and disdain. However, as of 30 June 2015, no investigation had been initiated by any authorities, non-governmental organisations or individuals. And this despite the fact that Prime Minister V. Orban, in an interview with Bloomberg in December 2014, stated the need for separate registration of those Hungarian NGOs that receive financial support from foreign donors in order for the public to have information about who these organisations serve. However, after that the government did not take any steps to adopt legislation similar to the one that exists in Russia.

A new battlefield between the government and human rights activists emerged after Hungarian government launched its anti-immigration campaign. In May, the representative of Fidesz criticized the Hungarian Helsinki Committee (WCC) for its stern statement which “reminded the rhetoric of the Stalin era.” After the first anti-immigrant billboards appeared on the streets in early June 2015, non-partisan anti-government activists and opposition party activists began to break these posters right across the country. The government took a tough stance and instructed the police to protect individual billboards, and to take into custody the activists involved in the "vandalism campaign". Some of them were actually detained, but later they were all justified by the court on the grounds that the damage to the billboards was "an act of freedom of expression."

In general, it can be stated that human rights and anti-fascist NGOs are increasingly becoming targets of government rhetoric. This increasingly began to occur as the ruling party Fides moves towards national-radicalism, anti-immigration and anti-Islamic rhetoric. According to the statement of the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, a targeted campaign against "human rights defenders who criticize the government or raise human rights issues is being conducted in Hungary, trying to intimidate them and present them as enemies of the state and “foreign agents”. They face tremendous pressure through public criticism, attacks in the media, unjustified checks on the part of state bodies. The statement also says that the authorities are trying to “delegitimise human rights activists and representatives of civil society through criminal prosecution for alleged defamation.”

In 2014, the government launched a large-scale campaign against non-governmental organisations that were coordinators or beneficiaries of the Norwegian NGO Fund. The government accused them of political bias and in the service of foreign interests. As a result, various state bodies (for example, the State Control Office, the National Tax Administration) have begun to investigate financial and legal affairs of these organisations; offices of two of such organisations were searched by police. As a result, no violations were found and in January 2015 the court decided that the police actions were illegal.

Thus, it is clear that the purpose of all these government attacks was to intimidate certain NGOs and make their work more difficult through bureaucratic and administrative pressure. In fact, the government does not hide the fact that it seeks greater control over this sector.

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