Orban Government Ordered to Apologize to NGO After Soros Dispute

(Bloomberg) -- A court in Budapest obliged Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government to apologize to a human rights organization for making false statements about it in the buildup to last month’s elections, in a rare victory for NGOs amid an increasing official crackdown.

The government has to publish an apology in a central part of its official website kormany.hu for 30 days for harming the reputation of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee in materials distributed to 8 million voters, the committee said on its Facebook page, citing the court ruling. The court also upheld a lower court’s other penalties including compensation of 2 million forints ($7,600).

Orban won a third consecutive term in April after a campaign obsessed with the threat of immigration and what he calls a "shadow army" of NGOs financed by Hungarian-born billionaire George Soros. According to the court ruling, a self-styled survey of voters by the government falsely alleged the Helsinki Committee was protecting immigrants who committed crimes, using Soros’s funds, the committee said.

Spokesmen for the government didn’t immediately respond to phone calls for comment on the ruling.

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