Politics

NGO Suing Hungarian Gov’t for Libel over Controversial ‘Survey’ on the “Soros Plan”

The Hungarian Helsinki Committee, an NGO watchdog, is suing the government for libel and calling for the rollback of the  national consultation survey on the “Soros Plan.” 

The ‘national consultation’ itself, which is being promoted through a widespread state billboard and television campaign under the aegis of “Government Information”, claims a so-called “Soros plan” exists, and calls on Hungarians to express their opinions on it.

The latest government billboard campaign, calling on Hungarians to participate in the “national consultation” on the “Soros plan.” The bottom of the billboard says “Let’s not let it go without comment!” (Image: estiujsag,hu)

According to the questionnaire, which is the latest salvo in the Orbán government’s ongoing attempts to portray the Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros as the enemy of the Hungarian people, the financier has a secret ‘plan’ to bring in millions of refugees into the EU, to dismantle border fences, and to, in general, aid migrants at the expense of Europeans. The current campaign is the second in the past several months to feature Soros: over the summer, a government billboard campaign warning the public not “to let Soros have the last laugh” was plastered throughout the country, despite Jewish groups’ concerns over the billboards’ potential for stirring up anti-Semitic sentiment.

These accusations are based on various op-eds and essays that Soros has written, despite the fact that spokesmen for the influential billionaire have repeatedly dismissed the existence of such a plan in the first place; it should be noted, in addition, that the government’s ‘consultation’ questions notably cherry-pick from these statements, selecting and placing out of contexts comments made by the financier, who has in fact criticized the EU’s refugee quota system, in order to claim the existence of a “Soros plan.”

One example of this is the questionnaire’s statement that “George Soros wants to ensure that migrants receive lesser punishments for crimes they commit,” a claim that has no basis in any written documents or statements, and that is in fact the basis of the Helsinki Committee’s lawsuit against the Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister.

A “government information” billboard from summer of 2017 warning Hungarians to “not let Soros be the one laughing at the end,” with the words “DIRTY JEW” scrawled over George Soros’ face (Photo: 444.hu)

Helsinki Lawsuit

The Hungarian Helsinki Committee is calling for the survey forms sent to Hungarians as part of the national consultation to be shredded and the government website on the survey to be shut down. It is also demanding the award of 2 million forints (6,500 euros) in damages from the cabinet office.

According to a press release by the NGO, one of the questions in the ‘National Consultation is specifically defamatory. It reads as follows:

George Soros wants to ensure that migrants receive lesser punishments for crimes they commit. George Soros has supported, with significant funding, organizations that support migrant, and defend migrants who commit crimes. One example of this is the Helsinki Committee, which suggested in connection with the illegal crossing of the border fence that it would be worrisome to apply serious legal consequences.

In its press release, the Helsinki Committee argues that this description in the government consultation’s 5th question is derogatory and libel, since the NGO has never pushed for “lesser punishments” for “migrants”, but rather

has always stood out in support of equality before the law.

The Committee claimed that the comments quoted in the 5th question were taken out of context from a 2015 publication that criticized the Hungarian government’s actions on the basis of the Geneva Conventions, and was part of a larger debate involving specifically whether those seeking asylum should be punished for crossing a border illegally.

The NGO claimed that the government’s consultation survey was implying that the Helsinki Committee wants refugees and migrants to have a special legal status, which the organization explains is not the case at all, and is in fact a libelous misrepresentation of the Helsinki Committee as a whole.

In a television appearance, Dávid Víg, who is responsible for the Committee’s law-enforcement related programs, argued that the Orbán government has

expressed our point of view in a context that was totally untrue: we have never argued that those who commit serious crimes shouldn’t be punished…we have, however, opposed the use of the state’s methods of legal punishment in the case of  someone  fleeing from war or other catastrophes.

 

Government Reaction

Cabinet office state secretary Csaba Dömötör told MTI it was “outrageous” that the Hungarian Helsinki Committee is trying to stop the national consultation on legal grounds. He also claimed that this showed that

the organisations supported by George Soros will stop at nothing to prevent Hungarian citizens from expressing their views on the billionaire’s plans.

Via MTI, Hungary Matters, Index.hu, 444.hu, mno.hu, hirtv.hu, and Helsinki.hu

Images via estiusjag.hu, 444.hu, and helsinkifigeylo.hu