Hungarian journalists and activists were targeted by spy firm, Linkedin says

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Journalists and activists in Hungary could have been targeted by Black Cube

Black Cube, an Israeli private intelligence firm, orchestrated a video campaign using LinkedIn to target Hungarian activists and journalists in the lead-up to last year's election, according to the professional networking site. LinkedIn researcher, Mona Damian, revealed that Black Cube established a network of fake personas utilizing deceptive job postings to connect with targets on the platform. Subsequent off-platform video conversations were recorded, and clips from these interactions were employed in a campaign to discredit NGOs in Hungary. The LinkedIn researcher reported the removal of a network of fake Black Cube-run accounts and the deletion of Black Cube's LinkedIn company page due to a "high volume of abuse and a clear violation of our terms of service."

LinkedIn did not disclose the party Black Cube may have been working for and did not provide details on the number of fake accounts removed. The Hungarian government spokesperson did not respond to inquiries.

Reports suggest that Black Cube had previously been accused of interference in Hungary's 2018 elections by secretly recording NGO leaders and publishing the footage in right-wing news outlets. The LinkedIn-attributed operation started in 2020, targeting at least twelve activists and journalists critical of Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban. These individuals were recorded over video calls, and the conversations were later published in pro-government media before Hungary's April 2022 elections, resulting in a significant victory for Orban. 

Director of the World Press Photo expresses shock over firing of museum chief

The director of Hungary’s National Museum has been fired from his role over an anti-LGBTQ+ law that he voted for when he was still a member of parliament. The Hungarian government has earlier issued a ban on individuals below the age of 18 from attending the World Press Photo exhibition hosted by the museum.

"I was shocked to learn of this decision. There is nothing explicit or offensive in these images. This photo series is an honest record of the lives of an elderly LGBTQI+ community in the Philippines. I encourage everyone to visit our website, view the story, and draw their own conclusions, "Joumana El Zein Khoury executive director of the World Press Photo Foundation told the Hungarian daily, Nepszava.

When asked if the exhibition series had ever been subject to similar political attacks, Andrew Davies, Director of Communications at the World Press Photo Foundation said "On rare occasions, our exhibitions have been blocked by the authorities of certain countries. And, of course, there are countries (outside the EU) where we are not allowed to show the exhibition."  

Orban says he does not want "mini-Gazas" in Budapest

During a recent interview on state radio, Orbán asserted a connection between terrorism and migration, referencing a secret service report released earlier in the month. Orbán expressed concern that "once migrants are allowed entry, it can result in an unstable and undesirable environment characterized by acts of terror, crime, and small Gazan-like areas". Expressing gratitude for not residing in a country with a significant migrant population, Orbán envisioned a future where future generations contend with such challenges.

Hungary's far-right prime minister also argued against initiating negotiations for Ukraine's EU membership, drawing a parallel between Ukraine's distance from EU accession and the geographical separation of Mako, a small town in southeastern Hungary, from Jerusalem. Orbán emphasized the need to separate discussions on EU funds for Hungary from Ukraine's EU membership bid, cautioning that financially supporting the Hungarian state without such separation could lead to economic bankruptcy. 

Fidesz delays introduction of "sovereignty protection bill"

Last week, Viktor Orban's Chief of Staff, Gergely Gulyas announced that on Tuesday Fidesz will submit the "sovereignty protection bill" that has been in talks for months. According to the Hungarian government, the bill aims to combat activities that "pose a threat to the country's sovereignty." A Fidesz lawmaker earlier suggested that the new bill could impact "journalists, civil organizations, and political parties.

However, the text of the law was not published on parliament's website on Tuesday as expected. The reason for the delay is unknown, but the EU has initiated a rule of law investigation into Hungary, resulting in the suspension of billions of euros in funding.

The Global Network for Independent Media expressed concerns over the 'sovereignty protection bill', saying "such a law, long feared, could pose a major threat to remaining independent media.".