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Affected NGOs remain defiant, say will fight in court.14 June 2017
According to the law, every organization that receives more than 7.2 million forints ($26,300) from abroad would be branded “foreign” and need to display that status on their websites and other promotional material. The law justifies such measures through the assertion that foreign-funded NGOs can “threaten the country’s political and economic interests and interfere with the functioning of its institutions,” Euronews reports. Reflecting the domination of Fidesz in parliament, the vote was 130 in favor and 44 against.
Euronews says that legislators adjusted some of the law’s provisions based on feedback from the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe. For example, it will now take one year instead of three to lose the “foreign” label if an organization stops receiving funding from abroad. But, writes the Budapest Beacon, “... the government modified the bill but in a manner that left in place its most pernicious provisions, including those to stigmatize organizations as being ‘foreign-funded’ and the threat to legally dissolve an NGO if it does not register as such.”
“Cosmetic changes to the law in response to the Venice Commission have not altered the law’s true intent,” said Goran Buldioski, director of the Open Society Foundation’s work in Europe, as quoted by the Budapest Beacon. “It seeks to suppress democratic voices in Hungary just when the country needs them most. It attacks Hungarians who help fellow citizens challenge corruption and arbitrary power, and who stand up for free and independent media and for open debate.” Soros is the founder of the Open Society Foundation, as well as Central Europe University, also the alleged target of recent legislation.
Several Hungarian NGOs have already pledged to defy the law, the Budapest Beacon reports. Both the Hungarian Helsinki Committee and Hungarian Civil Liberties Union say they will ignore the new requirements and turn to courts at home and abroad. “The Hungarian government’s public statements already stigmatize those who stand up for human rights and fundamental European values as serving foreign interests,” said Marta Pardavi from the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, as quoted by Euronews.
Another group of NGOs, united in the Civilizacio campaign, said in a statement that the law was unnecessary because local NGOs already display sufficient transparency, would portray foreign-funded organizations as a “threat to the country,” and would prove “harmful, because it undermines mutual trust in society and questions the right to freedom of expression.”
“We are here to stay and to continue our common work as we must not abandon Hungarian society and the people who need and count on our support,” the statement concluded.
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