Orbán becomes first EU leader to be placed on "free media predators" list

By Justin Spike –  !!444!!! InsightHungary!!!  (*)

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on Monday became the first leader from Central or Western Europe to make the list of “press freedom predators” compiled by France-based free press organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

The list contains 37 heads of state or government that “crack down massively on press freedom,” and includes such leaders as Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus, Kim Jong-Un of North Korea, Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines and Vladimir Putin of Russia. 

RSF refers to Hungary’s public media as a propaganda organ, and says much of the private media has been “subjugated or reduced to silence.”

“The methods may be subtle or brazen, but they are always efficient. Thanks to political-economic manoeuvres and the purchase of media companies by oligarchs close to Fidesz, the ruling party, it now controls 80 per cent of the country’s media landscape,” the organization writes.

In response to the report, Orbán posted a video to his Facebook page on Wednesday where he visits a Budapest newsstand and purchases copies of several independent newspapers and magazines. Orbán tells the newsstand manager that “some organization belonging to uncle George Soros” put Hungary on a list of enemies of press freedom. 

European Parliament passes resolution condemning Hungary’s anti-LGBT law

Lawmakers of the European Parliament met in Strasbourg on Thursday and passed a resolution that “condemns in the strongest possible terms” a Hungarian law passed in June that they view as an attack on the rights of LGBTQ people. 

The resolution passed with 459 yes votes, 147 no votes and 58 abstentions. In its text, the EU legislature’s five largest groups called for the repeal of the law and urged the European Commission to withhold post-pandemic recovery funds to Hungary unless it agrees to desist in its anti-LGBTQ agenda and implement anti-corruption measures. 

The Parliament stressed that the law is not an isolated incident, but “rather constitutes another intentional and premeditated example of the gradual dismantling of fundamental rights in Hungary.” It added that “state-sponsored LGBTIQ-phobia and disinformation campaigns have become tools for political censorship” in Hungary.

In a debate on the law in Strasbourg on Wednesday, President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, told the European Parliament that the law was “a disgrace,” and said the commission would use its full power to ensure that EU law is upheld.

“This law puts homosexuality and gender reassignment on par with pornography. This legislation uses the protection of children … as an excuse to severely discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation,” she said.

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán did not attend the debate in Strasbourg, but offered his interpretation of the session during a trip to Belgrade on Thursday. He claimed that the European Parliament and European Commission “want us to allow LGBTQ organizations into kindergartens and schools,” and that the debate “is about who decides how we will raise our children.”

“Brussels bureaucrats have no place here, and no matter what they do, we are not going to allow LGBTQ activists near our children in kindergartens and schools,” Orbán said.

Government to amend decree requiring NGOs to disclose the names of donors

A government decree published last week eliminated the possibility of making anonymous donations to non-governmental organizations in Hungary, requiring associations and foundations to report to the government every year how much money they receive and the names of their donors. 

The decree also requires that names of individuals be provided even in the case of donations from a company or other organization. If a company makes a donation, for example, the names of each person who own at least a 25 percent stake must be reported. 

But on Saturday, Secretary of State Balázs Orbán wrote on Facebook that the decree would soon be amended, and that donations of under HUF 500,000 (€1,400) could remain anonymous. 

“Meanwhile, the requirement of transparency will be strengthened for larger sum donors,” he wrote.

The requirement to identify donors comes after the European Court of Justice ruled last year that Hungarian legislation from 2017, which required NGOs that receive more than €20,000 in foreign funding annually to register with the government and disclose their foreign donors, violated European law.

That law was repealed this year, but another took its place which requires NGOs with an annual budget of more than HUF 20 million (€56,000) to be audited by the State Audit Office every two years. 

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, the prime minister’s chief of staff Gergely Gulyás confirmed that donations below HUF 500,000 could remain anonymous. 

“We made a mistake, I made a mistake,” he said of the first version of the decree, acknowledging that it did not comply with EU regulations. 


(*) — Justin Spike is an independent journalist and fixer based in Budapest. He was the managing editor of the Budapest Beacon, an independent, English-language news portal dedicated to Hungarian politics and economy. He run InsightHungary in partnership with local news website 444.hu. He have done fixing work for Financial Times, France24, Aftenbladet, Heartland TV, and Princeton University. — !!444!!! InsightHungary,  is one of the few independent media  beyond the control of autocrat Viktor Orbán.