Kovács on Freedom House report: Soros!

January 17, 2018

Kovács on Freedom House report: Soros!
Photo: MTI/Noémi Bruzák

Yesterday we reported that Freedom House had ranked Hungary as the least democratic country in the European Union. The Hungarian government was quick to respond, unleashing the fury of government spokesman Zoltán Kovács (pictured) in hopes of dispelling any notion of objectivity in Freedom House’s analysis. Kovács’s response is emblematic of how the government responds to any criticism: it’s all George Soros’s fault.

According to Kovács:

  • It is totally obvious that the Freedom House report is part of a George Soros-coordinated attack on Hungary.
  • Freedom House’s methodology is politically-motivated.
  • The rating system is political and is tied to George Soros and liberal circles who have ideological and political disagreements with Hungary.
  • It is problematic that Freedom House did not discuss what happened in Hungary on October 23, 2006 [anti-Socialist government street protests] .
  • Freedom House is a Soros organization, it is biased, and its attacks on Hungary are motivated by political interests.

This is the second report from the United States to which Kovács has had to respond in recent weeks. On January 10, the US Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations dedicated three pages (pp. 94-97) to Hungary in its minority staff report entitled, “PUTIN’S ASYMMETRIC ASSAULT ON DEMOCRACY IN RUSSIA AND EUROPE: IMPLICATIONS FOR U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY.”

Some quotes from the report:

  • “In Hungary, the Russian government’s asymmetric arsenal includes support for extreme political parties and organizations within the country, propaganda, and the use of corruption. The Russian government also enjoys a warm relationship with the country’s Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán. Despite Hungary’s proud history of resistance to Moscow during the Cold War and its membership in the European Union and NATO, Orbán has increasingly sought to deepen ties with Russia in recent years, calling into question the government’s commitment to the principles which underlie these international institutions.”
  • “Within the EU and NATO, Prime Minister Orbán is perhaps the most supportive leader of Vladimir Putin, his style of leadership, and his worldview.”
  • “Given Orbán’s positive orientation towards Moscow, his government has taken no discernable steps to stop or even discourage Russian malign influence, and appears to applaud the anti-EU, anti-U.S., and anti-migrant Russian propaganda because it aligns with the themes that Orbán promotes. Instead of defending Hungary against Russian malign interference, Orbán appears to have welcomed it. Russia has exploited this relatively unimpeded access by flooding Hungary with pro-Kremlin and anti-western propaganda and reportedly providing support to far-right political parties and fringe militant groups.”
  • “Russian government propaganda also finds fertile ground in Hungary’s domestic media landscape. Content by Sputnik and RT is widely referenced by pro-government news sources in Hungary. The pro-government daily newspaper Magyar Idok (The Hungarian Times) has published pieces by the Strategic Culture website, a well-known Russian propaganda outlet. The Russian propaganda site New Eastern Outlook has also been reportedly referenced by pro-Fidesz websites like 888.hu and Magyar Hirlap (Hungarian Gazette). There does not appear to be discernible effort by the government to counter this disinformation.”
  • “A lack of transparency in the political process has also allowed for increased corruption, another opening that Russia can exploit.”
  • “Since returning to power in 2010, Orbán has embraced the concept of ‘illiberal democracy’ modeled on the ‘sovereign democracy’ advanced by Vladislav Surkov in Russia. As Orbán deepens relations with Russia abroad, he has steadily eroded the democratic process at home, where Hungary’s political opposition has been marginalized and civil society watchdogs have a diminished voice.”

Kovács authored a long-winded and angry response to the committee’s report. Instead of addressing any of the report’s findings head on, he decided instead to invoke the Soros argument: “This report comes from the staff of the ten minority members – that is, the ten Democratic senators – of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The overwhelming majority of these senators – we found nine out of ten – have received Soros funding, either by direct contributions or through political action committees that receive large amounts of Soros funding. Behind these Democratic senators is the liberal, Soros political machine.”