Home Europe Hungary Says Transparency International Influencing Polls, Launches Probe

Hungary Says Transparency International Influencing Polls, Launches Probe

Hungary's new Sovereignty Protection Office said the investigation was based on an allegation that Transparency International was using funds from abroad to "influence decisions by the electorate."
Hungary to probe Transparency International

BUDAPEST: Hungary has launched an investigation into the Hungarian branch of Transparency International (TI), the anti-corruption watchdog said on its website on Tuesday, citing a letter from the country’s Sovereignty Protection Office.

Hungary’s parliament passed a law late last year to set up the Sovereignty Protection Office, to explore and monitor risks of political interference. The law bans foreign financing for parties or groups running for election and carries punishments of up to three years in prison.

The Sovereignty Protection Office confirmed that it sent a letter to Transparency International and notified the organization of the investigation.

In its letter quoted by TI, the Sovereignty Protection Office said its investigation was based on an allegation that the organization was engaged in activities that are funded from “subsidies from abroad” and that “influence decisions by the electorate.”

TI Hungary said in a statement that the sovereignty protection law “serves the intention of the government to intimidate citizens and civil organizations that are critical of the government.”

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As “an organization fighting corruption, the success of our investigative, analytical and legal work, and perhaps even our mere existence threatens the regime of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán,” it said.

The law was criticized by the U.S. State Department, as well as a panel of constitutional law experts from the Council of Europe, a human rights watchdog, which said it can have “a chilling effect” on free and democratic debate in the country.

The European Commission launched and infringement procedure over the law in February this year, citing its potential to undermine the union’s democratic values and fundamental rights.

Orban, in power since 2010 and with a two-thirds majority in parliament that allows his Fidesz party to change any legislation, has denied accusations he was undermining democracy in Hungary after the law passed.