freedom of the press

Twenty Hungarian editorial offices issued a joint statement in support of Atlatszo

On Tuesday, the so called Civil Society Union (CÖF-CÖKA) announced at a press conference that “a working group will be set up to investigate foreign-funded organisations, highlighting the links of Atlatszo to organisations linked to George Soros and the CIA. The NGO intends to submit the results of the investigation to the Sovereignty Protection Authority,” Pesti Srácok reported. The press conference of the pro-government propaganda organisation was also reported by the national news agency and the state-run public media. On Thursday, twenty Hungarian editorial offices issued a joint statement in support of press freedom and Atlatszo.

“CÖF-CÖKA: Hungarian politicians are being hunted down by NGOs with foreign money” – this was the title of the press conference on Tuesday, to which Atlatszo was not invited by the intellectual defenders of the homeland. According to the national news agency MTI, the message was that “in order to investigate the activities of foreign-funded organisations such as the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee or Transparency International Hungary, the CÖF-CÖKA is setting up a working group and the information obtained will be forwarded to the Sovereignty Protection Authority.”

This was first done in the case of Közhasznú Nonprofit Kft. and Átlátszónet Alapítvány, the legal entities behind our publication – they announced.

At the press conference, CÖF-CÖKA reviewed Atlatszo’s annual financial reports going back to 2016 and accused our organisation of conducting its investigative work “along the lines of substantial foreign funding”. They announced a data request, asking “whether Atlatszo has ever conducted investigative work from foreign sources against Hungarian organisations, or in cooperation with international organisations? With which foreign NGOs does Átlátszó share the information it obtains?”

Last year we were reported to the secret service, this time to the Sovereignty Protection Authority

László Csizmadia, president of the Civil Society Union (CÖF-CÖKA), once already listed at length the publicly accessible financial data of Atlatszo at a press conference in January 2023 – which Magyar Nemzet pro-government daily reported on then under the title “Átlátszó.hu may pose a national security risk”.

“There are bodies that have to investigate open issues from a national security point of view and reassure the public with the results of the investigation,” said Mr. Csizmadia that time.

The Metropolitan Court of Budapest later ordered the Hungarian News Agency and Magyar Nemzet to correct their coverage of the CÖF-CÖKA press conference for spreading false allegations made by CÖF-CÖKA.

Editors and newsrooms stand up for press freedom

On Thursday, twenty Hungarian editorial offices issued a joint statement in support of press freedom and Atlatszo, with each publication publishing the text on its own website.

“The Hungarian Press Prize, the highest award of the Association of Hungarian Journalists, was presented to the editorial staff of Atlatszo on Wednesday. The outlet, which is always critical of the powers that be and whose founder exposed police brutality and abuses during the Gyurcsány government in the autumn of 2006, and which also published Viktor Orbán’s private flights in 2018., or, for example, the scandal of the deforested canopy walkway last year.

While the exceptional work of this editorial team is being recognised with a professional award on the occasion of the Hungarian Press Freedom Day, the propaganda satellite organisations controlled by the government are conducting a campaign to portray the editorial team as a representative of foreign interests, citing the recently adopted law on the protection of sovereignty.

As the national holiday reminds us, Hungarian journalism has often been tried to be sent into oblivion by oppressive powers, but as Atlatszo’s acknowledgement indicates, it has never succeeded.

Our stand will remind the attackers of press freedom of this historic failure on 15 March, and the next day and the day after. We are in solidarity with Atlatszo, as we will be with any other newspaper attacked for presenting the truth, the reality. In other words, which serves the Hungarian interest above all.

The editorial staff of Válasz Online; Attila Babos, Szabad Pécs; Zsanett Bajáki, KecsUP; Endre B. Bojtár, Magyar Narancs; Dorottya Czapkó, Borsod24, Szol24, Szabolcs24; Márton Gulyás, Partizán; Zsombor György, Magyar Hang; Mihály Hardy ,Klubrádió; Zoltán Kovács, Élet és Irodalom; Tamás Német, Telex; Péter Németh, Népszava; András Pethő, Direkt36; Péter Pető, 24. hu; Gyöngyi Roznár,; Dániel Szalay, Media1; Dániel Szűcs, Szegeder; Ákos Tóth, Jelen; Péter Uj, 444; Gábor Vajda, Qubit; Blanka Zöldi, Lakmusz

On Thursday, we also received the data request from László Csizmadia, announced on Tuesday by CÖF-CÖKA, with the above-mentioned questions, such as:

“Could the investigative work of Átlátszó, financed by foreign money, have violated the right to privacy of Hungarian citizens?”

Freedom of the press attacked under the pretext of defending sovereignty

The incident was reported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, a European project monitoring press freedom violations, as follows:

„In Hungary, independent media outlets that obtain and report information in the public interest are repeatedly accused of serving “foreign interests”. The operation of independent newsrooms such as Átlátszó, including their financial background, is public and transparent. In December 2023, the Hungarian government passed the controversial Sovereignty Protection Act (alert:, which was widely criticized for opening the door to state-sponsored pressure on those media which receive foreign funding and produce journalism critical of the government. The newly established Sovereignty Protection Authority has unlimited powers to investigate the individuals and organizations it targets.”

The creation of the Sovereignty Protection Authority has been criticized by multiple Hungarian editorial offices as well, because “although the letter of the law does not regulate the operation of media companies, it is capable of severely restricting press freedom, making the work of independent editorial offices, journalists and media companies difficult or even impossible.”

Written and translated by Tamás Bodoky, the Hungarian version of this story is available here. Cover image: Péter Somogyi (szarvas) / Telex.