The harassment of NGOs by the Hungarian government must stop

The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is seriously concerned for the future of Hungarian NGOs working for the protection and promotion of democracy and human rights, for marginalized groups and transparency. Legislation which has recently been proposed by the Hungarian Government will, possibly unconstitutionally, target and paralyze non-government organisations that receive grants from foreign funds.

There are concerns that this legislation is modeled after the Russian so-called Foreign agent law that has effectively liquidated Russian watchdog organisations in matter of months. The proposed legislation follows previous attacks directed against organisations receiving foreign grants. Those attacks led to a serious diplomatic conflict between Hungary and Norway on the disbursement of the Norway Grants.

-The implementation of the proposed legislation would be catastrophic for the Hungarian civil society sector as a whole and seriously undermine the democratic principles that Hungary has committed to by becoming a member of the European community of countries, Secretary General Bjørn Engesland says in a statement today.

The NHC calls on the Hungarian Government to comply with its commitments as an EU member country and fully adhere to principles of democratic governance by respecting the role of civil society organisations. The NHC also reminds the Hungarian Government of the October 10, 2007 Recommendation of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers on the legal status of non-governmental organisations in Europe.  The Recommendations are specific on the rights of non-governmental organisations “to solicit and receive funding – cash or in-kind donations – not only from public bodies in their own state but also from institutional or individual donors, another state or multilateral agencies, subject only to the laws generally applicable to customs, foreign exchange and money laundering and those on the funding of elections and political parties” (paragraph 50).