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Hungary has weakest democracy in the EU, Freedom House reports

Independent watchdog organization Freedom House has released its annual report Freedom in the World. According to the findings, Hungary is seeing "increasing intimidation of civil society groups and the opposition, which has left citizens more reluctant to speak out on political topics."

Freedom in the World 2018 evaluates the state of freedom in 195 countries and 14 territories during the 2017 calendar year. Each country and territory is allotted between 0 and 4 points with regard to 25 separate indicators for an aggregate score of up to 100. These scores are used to determine two numerical ratings, one for political rights and one for civil liberties, with a rating of 1 representing the most free conditions and 7 the least free. A country or territory's political rights and civil liberties ratings then determine whether it has an overall status of Free, Partly Free, or Not Free.
Based on 2017 data, Hungary scored 72 points, which is the lowest in the whole of the 28-nation EU. According to the report, while still a "free" country, Hungary lost 4 points in 2017 compared to the previous year.
With -20 points, Hungary is the tenth on the list of countries that saw a dramatic decline in freedom over the last 10 years. It is the only "free" and EU Member State to make it onto the list.
Although based on this score Hungary is still considered to be a "free" country, the report highlights that Hungary shows a downward trend as intimidation of civil society groups and the opposition increased recently, which has left citizens more reluctant to speak out on political topics.
The report notes that in Hungary and Poland populist leaders consolidate power by uprooting democratic institutions and intimidating critics in civil society. Smears of the opposition appeared in public media in both countries, and both passed laws designed to curb the activities of nongovernmental organizations, the report states.

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."

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."

Last Updated on Wednesday, 17 January 2018 20:03

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