Hungarian Helsinki Committee to sue Fidesz for defamation

May 22, 2015

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It is cynical and inhuman to characterize those fleeing serious internal armed conflict as “economic migrants”. – Hungarian Helsinki Committee

The following press statement was issued at 2:06 pm this afternoon by the Hungarian Helsinki Committee in response to an earlier press statement issued by Fidesz accusing the human rights organization of being a “pseudo civil organization” and of “lying” about immigration at the behest of “international speculative capital” so that it could “stuff its pockets with George Soros’ money.”

The style is the party

Fidesz, Hungary’s governing party, issued a press statement in an unacceptable style about the Hungarian Helsinki Committee.  The communiqué reminiscent of dark times contains false accusations.  We seek satisfaction in the courts for the false and defamatory statements.  

The facts

A report airing on ATV’s news broadcast of 19 May 2015 deals with preparations to close a refugee camp in Debrecen.  The report’s introduction states that “three-quarters of asylum seekers this year are not fleeing from war zones for economic reasons but because their lives were in danger.”  At the end of the material a table appears showing that in 2015, 75 percent of asylum seekers arriving to Hungary were Afghan, Syrian, and Iraqi.  The Helsinki Committee is cited as a source.  However, we never said any such thing either to ATV or to other parties. 

Our position was, and continues to be, that up until the end of the first two months of 2015, in reality most of the asylum seekers came from Kosovo, and that from the beginning of March the number of Kosovo migrants decreased to a fraction of what it was.  In recent times, the vast majority of asylum seekers are coming from war zones and miscellaneous crisis zones.    According to official statistics, in March and April of this year 65 percent and 70 percent, respectively, of asylum seekers came from Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq. 

Especially pedantic is the fact that the statement accusing the Helsinki Committee of lying issued by Fidesz’ press office shamelessly manipulates statistics when it claims that 80 percent of asylum seekers in 2014 did not come from war zones.  Eurostat data make it clear that last year in Hungary, of those requesting refugee status, 21 percent came from Afghanistan, 16 percent from Syria, 2 percent from Palestine and 1 percent from Iraq.  Even among siblings this is 40 percent.  It is of course possible to juggle by asking whether Afghanistan counts as a war zone or not.  However, there can be no doubt that it is cynical and inhuman to characterize those fleeing serious internal armed conflict as “economic migrants”.

The style 

It is difficult to decide whether the “fulfilling the political orders of international speculative capital” mentioned in the press statement is more reminiscent of 1930s Germany or that Communist block of the 1950s.  However, it is certain that there is a court decision about it:  Fidesz and its spokesman of that time, Péter Hoppál in August 2013 defamed the Helsinki Committee when, without any supporting facts, he raised his voice against civil organizations critical of the government, among them the Helsinki Committee.

What we did not tolerate in 2013, we won’t tolerate now either.  We will seek satisfaction for the politically defamatory statement in the courts, and in this way sadly resign ourselves to the fact that the communications of Hungary’s largest party do not meet even the minimum of expectations  of political culture.