Data Protection Authority recommends NGO law also apply to domestically-funded organizations

April 20, 2017

After reviewing a Fidesz-authored bill on civil organizations meant to crack down on foreign-funded NGOs, Hungary’s National Data Protection and Information Authority (NAIH) recommended that the language of the legislation be expanded to make the law applicable to domestically-funded organizations as well, Magyar Nemzet reports.

NAIH head Attila Péterfalvi (pictured) told Hungarian state news service MTI that while the proposed law could be useful in combating money laundering and in ensuring that foreign interest groups are unable to unduly influence politics and internal affairs in Hungary via civil organizations, he believes the domestic support received by organizations from corporate, state or political entities must also be transparent.

In the statement, Péterfalvi wrote that “the publicity of information related to ‘organizations funded by economic actors’, and ‘government-supported organizations’ or ‘political party-supported organizations’, would have to be ensured in a similar way to the ‘foreign-funded organizations’ category.

“Civil organizations with domestic support are also capable of lobbying activities and the transmission of political or governmental propaganda, so total transparency is expected in their case too,” he continued.

Péterfalvi’s recommendations are unlikely to be adopted by the National Assembly as it debates the NGO bill.

When asked by daily newspaper Magyar Nemzet for a reaction to the NAIH recommendation, founder of Fidesz’s civil organization CÖF (Civil Unity Forum) László Csizmadia revealed that his organization had received between HUF 20-40 million (USD 69,000-138,000) in the past years from Fidesz’s party foundation. (This sum dwarfs the HUF 7.2 million (USD 25,000) annual threshold proposed in the NGO bill, beyond which NGOs would have to declare themselves with a court as “foreign funded organizations,” a restriction seen by critics as a way of stigmatizing groups unfavored by the government.)

CÖF has denied repeated accusations by opposition politicians that the organization has spent billions on pro-government media campaigns including billboards erected across the country. Critics believe Fidesz uses CÖF as a way of circumventing political advertising laws, and that the organization is a front for the party run and financed by party loyalists. Csizmadia claims that all of the money his organization receives for media campaigns comes from donations from companies and private persons.