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Hungary’s Foreign Agent Law

On Wednesday, parliament is set to vote on Hungary’s foreign agent law – the mandatory registration and public listing of every organisation that receives more than 25 thousand dollars from non-Hungarian sources.

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25 thousand USD

In the law, as well as the recently distributed “national consulting surveys“, the government makes sure to equate “foreign” with “terrorist”. And suggests that anyone who gets funding from outside of Hungary is plotting to overthrow the government. (Unless they get it from Russia. Russians don’t bother with paper trail.) 

Life is so much easier when you no longer have to think and judge for yourself. This is when rules of thumb come to the rescue. Like:

Four legs good, two legs bad.

or

“Us” is good. “Foreign” is terrorist.

To form judgement, you need at least information. And that is what you won’t get these days. And when you do, it might be so politically motivated as to count as fake. So rules of thumb are doubly appreciated.

When asked about government accountability NGOs and the risk they supposedly pose to the Hungarian government, former secret agent said:

I don’t want to pose like a tough counter-espionage agent, but I don’t really run for cover at the sight of NGOs like Krétakör, the Helsinki Committee or the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union. I can’T see them as organisations plotting a violent regime change. But I also don’t see anti-corruption efforts as an effort to overthrow the constitutional order.

— Index.hu – Hungarian secret agent reveals in detail how serious the Russian threat is

Take civil society. You can’t really grasp what it is, but they are annoying people. They are pesky and keep forcing authorities to play by the rules. Who does that? And isn’t it dangerous? It makes them less effective. How can anyone govern like that? (That’s an actual quote from a member of government.)

To their misfortune, NGO people are not dangerous, so it’s safe to hate on them. Especially if your government tells you to. But if you need an excuse, you would be hard pressed to name one. So you happily grasp the straw your government supplies:

Like the one claiming that they “encourage migrants to commit illegal activities”. To quote the manipulative a “consultation survey” the government sent to every household:

It is established fact now that illegal immigrants targeting Hungary are not only encouraged by human traffickers, but also by certain international organisations – to commit illegal activities. What do You think Hungary should do?

  1. Activities that aid illegal immigration – such as human trafficking and popularizing immigration – must be punished.
  2. Let us accept that there are international organisations that can encourage to flout Hungarian laws without consequences.

Or that they are foreign-funded.

More and more foreign-supported organizations operate in Hungary with the aim of interfering in our domestic affairs in an opaque manner. These organizations could jeopardize our sovereignty. What do You think Hungary should do?

  1. Require them to register, revealing the objectives of their activities and the sources of their funding.
  2. Allow them to continue their precarious activities without any supervision.

Never mind that supervision is already present, that after years of harassment by the tax office, they still couldn’t find any irregularity – or that really hostile players with a real intention to overthrow governments don’t usually register with the authorities and set up universities.

At an earlier version of the brainstorming about how to kill NGOs, our government came up with the wonderful idea of personal wealth declarations for NGO leaders. Which is only ever used to attack those who have no power. Politicians get away with murder on their wealth declarations – like PM Orbán claiming only to have 2000 euros in savings. As they put it: “wealth declarations serve transparency, not accountability.”

But that wasn’t good enough. Perhaps not unrelated to Putin’s regular visits to Budapest, the Hungarian government came up with a full-on, Russian-style, foreign agent law.

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4 thoughts on “Hungary’s Foreign Agent Law

  1. Pingback: How To Mock An Absurd Regime? | Meanwhile in Budapest

  2. Pingback: Hungarian Spring? | Meanwhile in Budapest

  3. Pingback: Why Did Orbán Shut Down CEU? | Meanwhile in Budapest

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