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Hungary to target journalists and NGO-s with "sovereignty protection bill"
Hungary's ruling party, Fidesz, will present a bill to the parliament next Tuesday, aiming to establish an office tasked with investigating activities that "pose a threat to the country's sovereignty" including foreign financing of political parties, as confirmed by Viktor Orban's Chief of Staff, Gergely Gulyas.
Fidesz party introduced the "sovereignty protection bill" in September. The proposed office or authority is expected to investigate various activities violating the country's sovereignty, though specifics were not provided during the briefing.
A Fidesz lawmaker earlier suggested that the new bill could impact "journalists, civil organizations, and political parties." The EU has initiated a rule of law investigation into Hungary, resulting in the suspension of billions of euros in funding.
Orban previously passed legislation targeting NGOs receiving foreign funding, particularly those backed by Hungarian-born billionaire philanthropist George Soros, whom Orban has accused of interfering in politics. The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that this law introduced "discriminatory and unjustified restrictions" infringing on fundamental rights, including personal data protection and freedom of association.
Investigative outlet reveals systemic corruption in Hungary
A recent report by Hungarian investigative outlet Átlátszó delves into the issue of corruption in public procurement. The report highlights the success of Tömb 2002 Kft, a company specializing in cleaning services, in winning public procurement contracts. Tömb 2002 Kft achieved this success by frequently winning tenders, many of which were part of a restricted procurement procedure. During the procedure, open competition is excluded, and the public buyer appoints at least five companies to compete for the contract. The system allows the buyer to pre-arrange the selection of a winning company, which, in turn, includes other invitees that will submit losing bids during the procurement process.
Átlátszó suggests that Tömb 2002's repeated victories against the same companies and the minimal difference between the estimated tender value and the winning bid, without the estimated value being made public, raise suspicions of potential collusion between the buyer and the bidder. Furthermore, a significant portion of these tenders was overseen by the same external consultants.
Notably, the spouse of one of Tömb 2002's founding partners held an important position in the local municipality's City Development Department and served as the CEO of a nearby industrial park after Fidesz assumed control.
Hungarian government claims "obvious connection" between terrorism and illegal migration in new intelligence report
The Orbán government has issued an intelligence report regarding the situation at the Hungarian-Serbian border, claiming the presence of terrorist organizations such as ISIS, al-Qaeda, and Hamas in the region. The report, titled "National Security Aspects of Illegal Migration on the Serbian-Hungarian Border Area," asserts that the Taliban's intelligence service has taken direct control of Afghan people-smuggling groups near the Hungarian border in Vojvodina, Serbia. This report follows reports of violence at the border as Afghan, Moroccan, and Syrian people-smuggling groups compete for control of the human trafficking market. It also suggests that Serbian police are unable to prevent the presence of human trafficking gangs in the border area.
Balázs Orbán, a top adviser to Orbán (no relation to the PM), shared the report's findings on Twitter, emphasizing an apparent connection between terrorism and illegal migration.
The Hungarian Parliament has released the intelligence services' migration report: There is an obvious connection between #terrorism and illegal #migration!— Balázs Orbán (@BalazsOrban_HU) November 2, 2023
The report contains the following main findings:
❗️At the Serbian-Hungarian border, known terrorist organizations such… pic.twitter.com/nxBblsgccn
However, Hungarian daily Népszava interviewed national security experts who described the report as a collection of propagandistic material. These experts also questioned the report's language, which does not resemble the style typically used in Secret Service documents. Moreover, they raised concerns about the source of information regarding the alleged presence of terrorist groups at the border. There has been no response from Hungary's foreign ministry regarding the implications of these allegations against Serbia for Budapest's support of Serbia's EU accession. Hungary considers Serbia a safe country for the return of migrants and refugees.
Tucker Carlson's pro-Orbán piece and unauthorized trip to Budapest could have led to his firing
Tucker Carlson's visit to Hungary in 2021 may have played a role in Fox News' decision to part ways with the commentator later in the spring, Brian Stelter writes in his upcoming book, "Network of Lies: The Epic Saga of Fox News, Donald Trump, and the Battle for American Democracy."
Stelter's reporting suggests that Carlson had been at odds with his Fox News superiors for some time before his exit in April. According to an executive involved in the situation, Carlson took his show, "Tucker Carlson Tonight," to Budapest, Hungary, in 2021 without obtaining permission. During his week abroad, Carlson engaged in a friendly discussion with Orbán, where he commended the far-right leader's anti-immigration and nationalist policies. He also spoke at the far-right political conference MCC Feszt.
Carlson's "unauthorized" trip may have been a breaking point for Fox executives who had concerns about his alignment with authoritarianism. Brian Stelter noted, "Carlson’s unapproved trip to Hungary in 2021 was surely in the latter category. Carlson whipped his show up into an infomercial for Viktor Orban’s increasingly autocratic, patriarchal nation.”
Although the former Fox News anchor nearly returned to Hungary for CPAC Budapest in 2023, he ultimately sent a video message after reportedly being restrained by a senior figure at Fox.