Transparency International, the global anti-corruption movement, is calling on the government of Hungary to stop its strategy of intimidation aimed at stifling the voice of civil society and democratic oversight.
Every government, irrespective of political affiliation, should uphold the rights of citizens in a democracy to freely monitor and evaluate public institutions as well as office-holders.
“The government should stop harassing civil society and the media simply because they criticise the state. It is imperative in a democracy that citizens have the right and the space to speak out about key issues affecting their lives and provide oversight of their elected leaders. The values of human rights, transparent public institutions, and a democratic system of check and balances, should be central to the government’s agenda regardless of political affiliation,” said Anne Koch, Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia for Transparency International.
This week, the Government Control Office (KEHI) raided three non-governmental organisations that administer the civil society funding programme of the European Economic Area and Norway Grants. The government has also compiled lists of grant recipients, all organisations working on anti-corruption, human rights, gender equality and freedom of speech, as well as of members of the selection panels.
“Preparing lists, labelling these CSO’s with political bias and discrediting their reputations in this manner runs counter to all written and unwritten European norms,” said József Péter Martin, Executive Director of Transparency International Hungary.
The Norwegian government has rejected accusations that Norway has interfered in the internal politics of Hungary. It says it only supports projects with goals in accordance with the objectives of the NGO programme of the EEA and Norway Grants and opens its call for funding to all organisations irrespective of the political leaning.
Transparency International Hungary has not yet been investigated but it has received a grant from the fund. The money is for its Transparency International Academy project, which provides anti-corruption education for university and secondary school students and enhances the involvement of young people in anti-corruption efforts.
“The pattern of government crackdowns on dissent in Hungary is alarming. In addition to threats to civil society, the independent media is under pressure if they expose stories that criticize the government. This should stop now,” said Transparency International’s Koch.
Transparency International is the global anti-corruption movement with more than 100 chapters around the world. All its member organisations, including Transparency International Hungary, are non-partisan.