11 February 2019
At the invitation of the U.S. State Department, Márta Pardavi, co-chair of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, Stefánia Kapronczay managing director of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, and Sándor Léderer, director of K-Monitor met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Special attention was paid to the situation of civil society, as well as to concerns regarding the rule of law in Hungary.
Ms Pardavi discussed the importance of the separation of powers, of a free judiciary, and of how the government’s regulations undermine the rule of law. She pointed out that the laws adopted in the course of these last years have weakened the stability of Hungarian democracy. She said that the government’s smear campaigns against civil society organizations and certain legislative changes limit opportunities for expressing diverse views. Those who take a different position than that of the government, those who speak up for human rights and the rule of law are stigmatized and intimidated.
Ms Kapronczay talked about the importance of an independent and diversified media. She spoke about the restrictions on the freedom of the press through continuous centralization, the creation of the Central European Press and Media Foundation, and through restricting the rights of the independent press. “The importance of this is twofold” Kapronczay highlighted. On the one hand, the propaganda media often initiates smear campaigns against those whose opinion differs from the government’s. On the other hand, the new media holding can be a very effective tool for spreading disinformation.
Mr Léderer spoke of corruption in Hungary. He highlighted that there has been an improvement in reducing everyday corruption, however, political corruption infiltrates the entire economy and it is also perceived as a major problem by Hungarian society. This not only erodes democratic values but might also pose a national security threat.
The fact that the US Administration is committed, even in discussions with its allies, to the protection of civil society and the values of rule of law is exemplified by the very fact of this meeting taking place and the spirit of openness towards civil society organisations. Today civil society representatives once again have shown that they are an important and trustworthy partners in this struggle.