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Freedom House: growing threat to civil society in Hungary

Government

freedom house

Independent watchdog organization Freedom House has released its annual report Freedom in the World. According to the findings, Hungary is seeing "increasing intimidation of civil society groups and the opposition, which has left citizens more reluctant to speak out on political topics."

Freedom in the World is Freedom House’s flagship annual report, assessing the condition of political rights and civil liberties around the world. It is composed of numerical ratings and supporting descriptive texts for 195 countries and 14 territories. Freedom in the World has been published since 1973, allowing Freedom House to track global trends in freedom over more than 40 years.

The 2018 edition of the Freedom in the World report shows that democracy faced its most serious crisis in decades in 2017 as its basic tenets - including guarantees of free and fair elections, the rights of minorities, freedom of the press, and the rule of law - came under attack around the world.

Of the 195 countries surveyed, 71 suffered net declines in political rights and civil liberties, with only 35 registering gains. This marked the 12th consecutive year of decline in global freedom.

While the full report on Hungary has not yet been published, the figures show a downward trend. On a scale from 1 to 7, where 1 is "most free" and 7 "least free," political rights in Hungary received a grade of 3 and civil liberties 2. Hungaryʼs aggregate score of 72/100 (0=least free) places the country in the freedom status of "free."

However, even with this score, Hungary ranks lowest among European countries. Bulgaria, the second weakest, reached an aggregate score of 80, Romania 84, Poland 85, Slovakia 89, Slovenia 93 and Austria 94. The best performers were Finland and Sweden, both with a score of 100, while the Netherlands ranked second on 99 points, equal with Canada.

Detailing the situation in Europe, the report says: "In Hungary and Poland, populist leaders continued to consolidate power by uprooting democratic institutions and intimidating critics in civil society. Smears of the opposition appeared in public media in both countries, and both passed laws designed to curb the activities of nongovernmental organizations."

Hungarian government spokesperson Zoltán Kovács commented on the report by saying that "it is absolutely obvious" that "yet another Soros organization" has attacked Hungary, referring to the Hungarian-born investor and philanthropist George Soros, who has become such a thorn in the side of the Hungarian government in recent times and the target of increasingly strident propaganda.

Cited by official government website kormany.hu, Kovács dismissed the report as "politically motivated and biased."

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