Hungary: End hateful rhetoric and attacks against rights groups


19 July 2017 – The Hungarian authorities must stop encouraging hateful views, PEN International said today, as the authorities continue to crackdown on independent civil society groups and critical voices.

The latest in a string of incidents saw Hungarian-born philanthropist and writer George Soros become the target of a government-run anti-immigration campaign. Posters appearing in public spaces across the country last month – on billboards, the metro and even the floors of Budapest’s trams – depicted the Jewish emigré laughing, alongside the text ‘let’s not let Soros have the last laugh’, in reference to claims that he wants to force Hungary to allow in migrants. The past few months have seen an escalation of the country’s anti-migrant stance, with the authorities openly fuelling anti-migrant rhetoric and smearing rights groups critical of their stance.

Billboards were reminiscent of anti-Semitic Nazi propaganda, which mocked Jewish people and emphasized their supposed attempts to destroy Germany. Several posters of George Soros were defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti that read ‘stinking Jew’ and bore the stars of David. Although the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Federations urged the Hungarian authorities to halt the campaign, saying it encouraged anti-Semitism, the government denied it was the case and let the campaign run its course until 15 July.

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán claims that the government has zero-tolerance towards anti-Semitism yet this latest campaign against George Soros has clearly fuelled hateful views’, said Jennifer Clement, PEN International President. ‘We urge the Hungarian authorities to investigate, prosecute and sentence all racist crimes and to end their vile and shameful attacks against dissenting voices.’

This is not the first time that George Soros finds himself the target of the Hungarian authorities. The National Act on Higher Education, adopted in April 2017, was essentially designed to force the prestigious Central European University (CEU) – which George Soros funded – into inoperability. PEN International and other human rights groups denounced the move as an attack on the CEU’s right to academic freedom and independence.

The Hungarian authorities’ long-standing attacks on civil society culminated in June 2017 with the adoption of a new law on non-governmental organisations (NGOs), which compels NGOs that receive more than 7.2 million Hungarian Forints (approximately 24,000 euros) to re-register as a ‘foreign-supported organisation’. By labelling NGOs as ‘foreign-funded’, the new law will further stigmatise and delegitimise their work and ultimately have a chilling effect on freedom of expression.

PEN International urges the Hungarian authorities to end their campaign against independent civil society groups and to uphold their international obligations.

The organisation further calls on the Hungarian authorities to take all possible measures to combat xenophobia, anti-refugee sentiment and racism.

For further details contact Aurélia Dondo at PEN International, Koops Mill, 162-164 Abbey Street, London, SE1 2AN, UK Tel: +44 (0) 20 7405 0338 Fax  +44 (0) 20 7405 0339 e-mail: Aurelia.dondo@pen-international.org