US says actions of Hungary’s Sovereignty Protection Office deeply worrying and undemocratic

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„The United States is deeply concerned by the Hungarian government’s implementation of the “Defense of National Sovereignty Act,” including this week’s draconian actions by the recently established “Sovereignty Protection Office” to target the operations of civil society and independent media organizations.”, the U.S. State Department said in a statement, which was spotted by hvg.hu on their website.

The Sovereignty Protection Office recently launched a „specific – comprehensive” investigation against Transparency International Hungary (TI). In addition to the organisation, the investigative news portal Átlátszó also received questions from the office.

The law on the protection of sovereignty was adopted by parliament at the end of last year and has since prompted EU infringement proceedings against Hungary. In November, Gergely Gulyás, the Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office, said that the sovereignty protection bill would have no bearing on the press.

At Telex, we have indicated in several articles the serious stakes of the legislation package, with which Fidesz admittedly intends to „make things harder” for „foreign-funded journalists, pseudo-NGOs and dollar-funded politicians”.

The law also established the Sovereignty Protection Office, the leader of which, Tamás Lánczi was appointed in January by then president Katalin Novák. Lánczi was previously editor-in-chief at Figyelő at the time when the paper published what became known as „The Soros list” – a list of randomly picked NGOs, politicians, researchers, journalists and activists labeled by the paper as “mercenary traitors”. The Sovereignty Protection Office has wide investigative authority, and the text of the bill does not clarify exactly what entities the office can investigate. Our previous article includes more details on the Sovereignty Protection Office.

„The Hungarian government’s attempt to harass, intimidate, and punish independent organizations runs counter to the principles of democratic governance rooted in the rule of law. This law places no limit on this entity’s ability to target the human rights and fundamental freedoms of its own citizens and puts at risk any country, business entity, or individual that chooses to engage with them. The United States will continue to advocate for the protection of civil society organizations and media freedom in the face of these anti-democratic measures” – the statement of the U.S. State Department says.

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