Hungary: thousands protest ties to Russia as human rights group warns of NGO crackdown

Image by Novinite.com
Image by Novinite.com

Thousands of Hungarians gathered this weekend to protest their government’s growing ties to Russia.

Protestors from a number of oppositional political parties gathered in Budapest where German chancellor Angela Merkel was due to visit. During Merkel’s visit protestors called upon Hungary’s government to support its Western ties, rather than inching closer to Russia.

The current ruling party, the centre-right Fidesz, has been accused of consolidating power and restructuring Hungarian society in an attempt to build a more Kremlin-like form of government.

One protestor told the Moscow Times that the Hungarian government were moving towards “the kind of dictatorship Putin has built in Russia.”

Fidesz’s party leader, Viktor Orbán, has been the Prime Minister of Hungary since 2010 and the head of his party for 27 years. Orbán has been criticised in the past for his control of Hungarian politics after many have predicted that he will retain his power in the country’s next general election in 2018.

Shortly after protestors criticised his political strategies international human rights group Amnesty International also spoke out against Prime Minister Orbán. In a report published to coincide with Angela Merkel’s official visit Amnesty accused Hungarian authorities of a ‘crackdown’ on NGOs.

The report, titled ‘Their Backs to the Wall’, highlighted a number of issues in 2014 that have helped to limit the activities of foreign NGOs in Hungary. Increased financial regulations, mandatory registration and a pro-government media are all listed as factors that have put pressure on charities in Hungary.

According to Amnesty, Orbán and his party are guilty of implementing several politically-motivated laws designed to limit the power of groups that may be critical of current government policies. The government are also accused of sanctioning illegal police raids on several NGOs throughout 2014.

Following the release of their report Amnesty called upon European powers to pressure Hungary into reforming its current approach to NGOs. The charity also highlighted the need for outside influence in areas such as LGBTI issues, women’s rights and anti-corruption – where western charities have helped spur much progress.

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Click here to read Amnesty’s full report.

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