NGOs blast Hungary's planned 'Stop Soros' laws

Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been accusing US financier and philanthropist George Soros since 2015 of orchestrating immigration into Europe

Twenty-four Hungarian NGOs on Friday slammed as "dishonest" planned "Stop Soros" laws billed as cracking down on illegal immigration, saying the real targets are critics of the government.

Government officials on Wednesday unveiled a package of three draft bills named after US financier and philanthropist George Soros.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been accusing Soros since 2015 of orchestrating immigration into Europe.

Set to go before parliament in February, the laws include a special tax on foreign funding given to groups judged to be "supporting" or "organising" illegal migration.

Hungarian citizens could also be barred from approaching border zones, or foreign nationals banned from entering the country, if similarly judged.

The laws were "dangerous, dishonest, arbitrary, and damaging," said Veronika Mora, leader of an ecological group, reading a joint statement by the non-governmental organisations.

Activists held up placards reading "No to the stigmatisation of civil groups!"

The real aim of the package was to discourage people from commenting on politics, said Marta Pardavi of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, a refugee rights group.

"In a democratic country no-one should face punishment because of their opinion," she said.

Several of the groups involved in the joint statement receive foreign funding, including from Soros's Open Society Foundation, and so stand to be impacted by the legislation.

Calling on the government to scrap the plan, Mora said it is the latest in a government onslaught against NGOs in recent years.

- 'Fake organisations' -

Last year Orban brought in a law also seen as targeting Soros-backed NGOs as well as a higher education bill that the Budapest-based Central European University, founded by Hungarian-born Soros, says is aimed at forcing it out of Hungary.

The 87-year-old Soros featured on billboards nationwide last year during a so-called "national consultation" campaign attacking his alleged pro-immigration "Soros Plan".

A new advertisement campaign linked to the "Stop Soros" drive was also launched on public television Friday.

In a radio interview on Friday, Orban, who is forecast to be reelected for a third consecutive term on April 8, said he wants to prevent Hungary becoming a country of immigration.

"We want to keep out from Hungary everyone who wants to do something which is against the interests of Hungarians," he said.

"Money now has to be publically declared. We will separately register those organisations that I would rather call fake organisations .. as paid activists work for them, which is not a feature of civil organisations," he said.