Dismantling Democracy

Hungary’s Assault on Civil Society

By Maya Fernandez-Powell

Under the leadership of its far-right nationalist prime minister, Hungary is carrying out one of the most aggressive assaults on civil society in Europe as it prepares for nationwide and European Parliamentary (EP) elections in June 2024.

Since being elected to office for the first time in 2010, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his ruling party Fidesz have rolled back democratic safeguards and pushed the country towards an autocracy.

After winning a fourth consecutive term in office in 2022 and a supermajority in parliament, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s grip on power appears tighter than ever. The Hungarian leader is Russian President Putin’s greatest ally in the European Union, and Orbán publicly supports a Donald Trump election victory in 2024.

For years, Orbán and his allies have been passing anti-NGO legislation and used various tactics to suffocate civil society in Hungary. The parliament recently passed a law that establishes a new authority to investigate individuals or organizations accused of serving foreign interests, and imposes criminal penalties on those who use foreign financing for election campaigns.

Human Rights First traveled to Hungary in April 2024 ahead of the upcoming election campaign to report on the challenges facing human rights defenders (HRDs) working in an increasingly hostile and dangerous environment. We spoke with dozens of civil society leaders, human rights lawyers, LGBTQ+ activists, journalists, academics, and foreign diplomats in the capital Budapest and the eastern city of Debrecen. This report outlines the concerns of HRDs and urges a strong U.S. response to Hungary’s democratic backsliding and attacks on civil society.

Download the full report below.



  • Maya Fernandez-Powell

Published on May 15, 2024


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