Members of human rights organisations such as Amnesty International, anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International, journalists and academics are included in a list of more than 200 “mercenaries”. This is the term Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban used to describe those who are reportedly part of groups being paid by US-Hungarian billionaire George Soros to topple the government.
The list was published by the Hungarian magazine Figyelo on April 12.
As reported by the Associated Press, the magazine is a formerly highly respected business magazine which took on an unabashedly pro-government slant after it was acquired in December 2016 by Maria Schmidt, a historian and Orban ally. Since then, the great majority of the ads in the magazine are from the government or state-owned companies.
Orban, who was re-elected to a fourth term as Hungary’s PM in the April 8 election, based his campaign on demonising migrants and blaming Soros and his Open Society Foundations for wanting to allow thousands of migrants into the country.
In a statement, the magazine characterised reaction to the article as “hysteria,” apologised to families of the deceased named in the story and said its list was “far from complete”.
The publication also vowed to add to the list anyone who asked to be included and to remove those “embarrassed that we included them in the Soros directory.”
Andras Petho, an investigative journalist at website Direkt36.hu and one of those named by Figyelo, said that while his publication was partly supported by Soros’ foundation, most of its revenues came from crowdfunding efforts and from Hungarian readers.
“We’ve never had any requests or expectations expressed about our reporting or stories by the Soros fund,” Petho was quoted as saying by AP.
Several other organisations named by Figyelo also rejected the article. For instance, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, which offers legal services for asylum-seekers as part of its work, said the list was “a dangerous figment of the imagination, a fabrication whose copyright belongs to the government, not the magazine”.
“Blacklisting has to stop now, until it’s not too late,” the group said.