freedom of the press

We are not standing in elections, therefore we do not cooperate with the Sovereignty Protection Office

In our reply to the Sovereignty Protection Office today, we have denied, on legal grounds, that we are obliged to answer the questions they asked. The “activity aimed at influencing the will of the electorate”, which is the reason given for the official investigation, is political campaigning on party or municipal political issues under the Electoral Procedure Act, and Átlátszó does not engage in such activities. We can therefore only share information with the Office that we would provide to anyone else who asks.

Ákos Pálvölgyi, director of the Sovereignty Protection Office, informed in an official letter on 25 June that the Office, under the mandate of the law on the protection of national sovereignty adopted last year, “investigates organisations that use foreign funding to influence the will of voters or support such activities”.

The official letter states that “ Közhasznú Nonprofit Kft. (hereinafter: is considered a foreign-funded organization based on the reports published on its website, and the share of foreign funding in its annual budget is significant”. Therefore, the Sovereignty Protection Office “launches an individual – comprehensive – investigation into the activities of”.

In the official letter (PDF), we received 11 questions: some of them concern information that is available to the public (articles of association, financial statements and notes to the accounts), others ask for accounting information (general ledger extracts, bank account statements) and others relate to grants received from international donor organisations included in the notes to our financial statements – for example, grant agreements going back several years.

In our reply (PDF) sent to the Office today, we have refuted with legal arguments that we are obliged to answer the questions asked. Indeed, “activities aimed at influencing the will of the electorate” in the sense of the Electoral Procedure Act means political campaigning on party political or municipal political issues, and does not engage in such activities. We can therefore only share information with the Office that we would provide to anyone else who asks us.

In our reply, we drew the attention of the Sovereignty Protection Office to the fact that the articles of association and financial statements of are available to anyone in public records and are also available on its website.

It is not true, that Atlatszo is non-transparent

The sources of revenue that have a significant impact on our budget are disclosed each year in the supplementary annexes to our financial statements, under the subheading “Description of the main activities and programmes carried out during the financial year”. In these we list in detail from whom, for what, and how much funding we received and used in the fiscal year. We even produce infographics to make this clearer.

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Our main donors in 2023

The chart detailing the resources used in the financial year 2023 also shows that the most significant supporter of is our audience: thousands of individuals support us with small donations and by donating 1 percent of their personal income taxes through the Átlátszónet Foundation. The Átlátszónet Foundation’s articles of association and financial statements are also available to anyone in public registers and are also available on its website.

As a reader, you can support us by increasing the share of community income in your budget: by donating 1 percent of your income tax, and by making a one-off or regular donation. Protect the sovereignty of our country, support Átlátszó with Hungarian forints!

For years, Atlatszo has been attacked for “foreign funding”

Like Transparency International Hungary, which is now also under investigation by the Soveregnity Protection Office, Atlatszo has repeatedly voiced its reservations about the law on the protection of sovereignty adopted by the Hungarian Parliament at the end of last year.

In December, for example, we wrote, together with several other editorial offices, that “although the newly adopted law on the protection of sovereignty does not regulate the operation of media companies, it is nevertheless capable of severely restricting press freedom, making the work of independent editorial offices, journalists and media companies difficult or even impossible.” We also joined the joint statement of Hungarian NGOs protesting against the law.

The flagship of pro-government NGOs, the Civil Coalition Forum (CÖF-CÖKA), has also been harassing Atlatszo for a long time on the pretext of foreign funding. Most recently, in March, they held a press conference to announce that they would set up a working group to investigate foreign-funded organisations, with a special focus on Atlatszo. The press conference of the pro-government propaganda organisation was then reported by the national news agency and the public media service, while 20 independent editorial offices issued a joint statement in support of press freedom and Atlatszo.

Not everyone understands the procedure

Following the news of the Sovereignty Protection Office’s investigation, the US State Department expressed concern: “The Hungarian government’s attempt to harass, intimidate, and punish independent organizations runs contrary to the principles of democratic governance rooted in the rule of law,” they wrote.

The National Association of Hungarian Journalists also issued a statement saying that the harassment of has confirmed suspicions about the true purpose of the new state agency set up last year: “They can target the independent press whenever they want, the new law can be applied to anyone, at any time, creating legal uncertainty, infringing the free functioning of the press and endangering freedom of expression. Today, tomorrow someone else.”

A statement of solidarity was also issued by the civil members of the Anti-Corruption Working Group of the Integrity Authority, in which Transparency International Hungary and also participate. According to the statement, in the framework of the investigation, the Sovereignty Protection Office requested data and information “the sharing of which raises serious source and data protection concerns” and “the procedure may substantially restrict the right to freedom of expression and fair trial of the organisations concerned and their staff”.

The European Commission announced in February that it was launching infringement proceedings against Hungary for breaching EU law on the sovereignty protection package.

The Hungarian version of this article is available here.