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Hungarian Civil Liberties Union on the government crackdown against civil society

Fidesz Vice-President Szilárd Németh pictured on 14 February 2015. He has launched a verbal attack against several civil society organisations
Fidesz Vice-President Szilárd Németh pictured on 14 February 2015. He has launched a verbal attack against several civil society organisations

Derzsi Elekes Andor/Wikipedia/Creative Commons

This statement was originally published on liberties.eu on 30 January 2017.

What does the government want? Fidesz's vice-president, Szilárd Németh, along with MPs of the governing parties, launched a verbal attack against several civil organizations that receive part of their funding from foreign donors.

The government wants to create new obstacles to hinder the work of organizations that are critical of its activities. Under the pretext of transparency, the government in fact questions the legitimacy of critical organizations.

At present, it is unknown exactly what steps the government intends to take to further obstruct the operations of the organizations or stigmatize them: recent news concerns the "elimination" of some organizations - including HCLU - as well as the introduction of mandatory wealth declaration for the leaders of civil organizations.

Who do we work for?

We work for all Hungarian citizens needing support against breaches and neglect committed by the government. HCLU protects the rights of those, for instance, speaking up against the deteriorating conditions of health care, or whose disabled children fail to receive adequate education.

We do things the Hungarian government should be dealing with instead of questioning the legitimacy of independent watchdog organizations. We have daily experiences concerning the violation of rights; our legal assistance service receive about 2,300 requests in a year. Our duty is to amplify the voice of these people in urging structural changes or representing them vis-a-vis the authorities or harassment by the state.

When trying to eliminate and stigmatize us, the government also sends a message to these people, saying they are not important. With the renewed defamatory campaign against civil organizations, the government tries to sweep issues addressed by HCLU and other organizations under the carpet.

The harassment of civil organizations and statements questioning their credibility or the lawfulness of their operations are already particularly pernicious to civil society forming an integral part of democratic societies. However, at the end of the day, the price is paid by the people represented by these organizations.

It is the Hungarian society that will be impoverished due to the government's interfering with, and attempts to impede altogether, the work of these organizations, or launching aggressive campaigns against them.

Where does HCLU's funding come form?

HCLU does not accept any government support or funding coming from Hungarian parties. Our income is provided exclusively by private persons, companies and private foundations. We do not accept Hungarian public monies, the allocation of which depends on Hungarian authorities.

We need to operate in a transparent manner as, being part of the political-public sphere, we would like to support the enforcement of liberties, and people whose problems we are concerned with can judge the credibility of our organization only as long as its operations are transparent.

Hence, transparency, for us, is a matter of credibility; therefore, our financial data is rendered easily accessible and constantly refreshed.

What's next?

We are not intimidated; we continue to stand up for our clients even in cases where we must endure similar government threats. We can assure you of this: we will never give up our mission or our principles; HCLU will not disappear from Hungary, and its activities will continue to be defined by the consistent enforcement of human rights.

We will go on working to support the people the state cannot or does not want to help. We are going to maintain our presence so as no violation of rights could ever pass unnoticed. We will continue to do our best to compel the state to respect human rights.

How can you help?

Lots of people have contacted HCLU during these past days to assure us of their support and solidarity. If you want to contribute to our work, you are welcome to join us! We need you, too, to be able to address all cases of infringement. You can also become a shareholder of freedom!

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