The Hungarian government on Thursday accused the U.S. State Department of interfering in the country’s election campaign.
The Hungarian Foreign Ministry summoned the top American diplomat in Budapest, chargé d’affaires David Kostelancik, after the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL) announced on November 7 that it would provide up to $700,000 “for projects that increase citizens’ access to objective information about domestic and global issues in Hungary.”
“DRL’s goal is to support media outlets operating outside the capital in Hungary to produce fact-based reporting and increase their audience and economic sustainability,” the State Department wrote on its website.
The move by Budapest raises tensions with Washington at a time when policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic are worried about Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s increasingly tight control of the media.
While the American funding would only be provided in May 2018 at the earliest, after Hungary’s spring election, Budapest argues that the funds amount to U.S. intervention in domestic politics.
“We think this is a very strange thing, we consider it an unusual step among allies,” János Lázár, Orbán’s chief of staff, said at a press conference Thursday, adding that the State Department’s funding plans amount to “interference in the election campaign.”
“It is unclear what the U.S. State Department’s goal is,” he added.