Last month, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban made his boldest attack yet on civil society. In a speech marking 170 years since Hungary’s 1848 revolution, Orban railed against “media outlets maintained by foreign concerns and domestic oligarchs, professional hired activists, troublemaking protest organisers, and a chain of NGOs financed by an international speculator, summed up by and embodied in the name ‘George Soros.’” Unfortunately, such rhetoric is no longer confined to Orban, who famously calls himself an “illiberal democrat.” Increasingly, attacks on civil society and independent media have become normalized throughout central Europe, threatening the future of democracy in the region.
Migration Aid, a volunteer civil initiative to help refugees arriving to Hungary, became the target of an elaborate defamation scheme earlier this year. Two members of the Israeli company invited András Siewert, the director of MA to a personal meeting in Vienna. Siewert suspected that the approach might be a recruitment attempt by foreign secret services, so he notified the Alkotmányvédelmi Hivatal, (AH), the counterintelligence branch of the secret service. Siewert filed his report to AH on the 3rd of January, 2018, as evidence acquired by Index.hu confirms.
The government’s hate campaign has now infected the everyday lives of children, and they are repeating what they’ve heard on television about George Soros, Brussels and migrants. These children often don’t know what exactly a migrant is, but the word now counts as a swear word like “faggot” or “gypsy.” There’s a nine-year-old boy who is terrified that there will be a terrorist attack. A four-year-old boy pretends that he’s reading a story book about a coming war with Brussels. According to one educator, no moral or religious class exists that could compensate for this hatred.
The Hungarian government keeps spending huge amounts of taxpayer money on anti-Soros propaganda. Just in two months – in December 2017 and January 2018 – the Orban government spent €13.5 million on six different advertising campaigns. The most expensive of the six was the one targeting the Hungarian-born millionaire: €8.1 million was spent on anti-Soros ads. Atlatszo published at the end of last year that the Hungarian government spent €40 million on two huge anti-Soros propaganda campaigns in 2017. But the propaganda work did not stop there: at the end of last year and the beginning of this year new campaigns were commissioned.