Politics

US Human-Rights Group Freedom House slams Hungarian Government’s ‘Soros’ Billboards

US-based human rights watchdog Freedom House on Friday slammed the Hungarian government’s nationwide billboard and television campaign concerning civil organizations, saying that it was “vilifying” NGOs and refugees.

In a statement released on July 14th, Freedom House President Michael Abramowitz said that

The government of Hungary has resorted to tactics reminiscent of the darkest days of dictatorship in its vilification of refugees, and civil society organizations that advocate an orderly, humane policy of immigration.

Last month, the Hungarian government passed a bill targeting NGOs that receive foreign funding, a move criticized by civil society groups as having “nothing to do with transparency and everything to do with obstructing and discrediting critical civil society voices.” In addition, the European Commission has launched an infringement procedure against Hungary over the controversial bill.

And even more recently, the Orbán government launched a billboard campaign targeting Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros. Soros, who is a frequent target of the government’s rhetoric, was depicted with a grin on the billboards. Next to the financier’s head was a message calling on Hungarians to “not let Soros be the one laughing at the end.”

These posters have been defaced with hate speech, and Jewish groups and critics both in Hungary and worldwide have described them as having anti-Semitic overtones.

In contrast (as we have also reported) while Israel’s Ambassador to Hungary Yossi Amrani also criticized the billboard campaign, the Israeli foreign ministry quickly performed an about-face on the matter.

Acting on instructions from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Foreign Ministry expressed sharp criticism of Soros, saying that he supports organizations slandering Israel, and questions Israel’s right to self-defense. Netanyahu, who also fills the post of foreign minister, had not been consulted before the Israeli embassy in Budapest issued its statement on Saturday, according to an Israeli newspaper report.

 You can read Freedom House’s statement in its entirety below:

The government of Hungary has resorted to tactics reminiscent of the darkest days of dictatorship in its vilification of refugees, and civil society organizations that advocate an orderly, humane policy of immigration,” said Michael J. Abramowitz, president of Freedom House. “The imagery and language used by Prime Minister Orban’s government is deeply offensive and indeed anti-Semitic, especially its targeting of the Open Society Foundations and its Hungarian-born founder, George Soros. His organization has sought to secure fundamental freedoms for all Hungarians, including minorities. The political views of its founder are not legitimate topics of concern of Hungary’s government. The government’s demonization of refugees and of civil society should offend all who value basic human rights and open, democratic societies.”

Hungary is rated Free in Freedom in the World 2017, Partly Free in Freedom of the Press 2017, Free in Freedom on the Net 2016, and receives a democracy score of 3.54, on a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 as the worst possible score, in Nations in Transit 2017.

As of this article’s publication, the Hungarian government had yet to respond to the human-rights group’s criticism. Hungary Today will follow-up with any further developments in the story.

The anti-Soros billboards were removed over the weekend, a move some critics have linked to the greater international scrutiny the Hungarian capital is receiving due to its hosting of the FINA Water World Championships.

Via Freedom House, MTI, and Hungary Matters

Image via Freedom House