Who finances right-wing Hungarian portals in North America?

There is growing concern that Putin’s Russia established a network of websites to spread disinformation and political propaganda in the US.  And how about Viktor Orbán’s Hungary?

According to public records the Clevelandi Magyarokért Foundation was registered on December 5, 2019 in North Olmsted, Ohio as a non-profit entity.   Within weeks the organization received 1.5 million Ft support from the Orbán government.  (DSZT-KP-1-2020/1-000305, Bethlen Gábor Alap)

The Foundation operates a sleek, well-designed “news” website worth taking a look at.  In the Hungarian section dozens of articles cover the US presidential election and the overall message is that President Biden is a fraudster.  Titles include “Fraud of the century” (read here), and “USB cards were used for voter fraud in Pennsylvania” (read here) just to mention two.  A piece from the late far-right Hungarian politician István Csurka praises China (read here), Philip Rákay, a right wing Hungarian journalist wants President Biden to be more respectful to Russian President Putin (read here).   There is also a piece from Newt Gingrich, Why I will not accept Joe Biden as president (read here) and hundreds of similar articles.  It seems that many of the content is sourced from Hungary-based right-wing portals, the site has no writers in the US.

It is clear that this is an anti-Biden portal with a strong pro-China and pro-Putin slant.  I couldn’t find one piece supporting US democrats or criticizing Hungarian Prime Minister Orbán’s policies.

Obviously the Clevelandi Magyarokért Foundation has every right to express its political views.  But who pays for the content?  In the US we have laws governing non-profits and political propaganda.  The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) of 1938 “requires certain agents of foreign principals who are engaged in political activities or other activities specified under the statute to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal, as well as activities, receipts and disbursements in support of those activities.”

Does the Clevelandi Magyarokért Foundation satisfy non-profit requirements and the FARA law?  I’m not qualified to form a legal opinion but legal minds should look into it.

Mr. Peter Szilágyi ministerial commissioner responsible for Hungarian communities abroad, (far right) Ms. Zita Bencsik, Consul General of Chicago and Mr. Csibi in 2020.

The Foundation is run by Mr. Lóránd Csibi who arrived to Cleveland from Transylvania about 20 years ago as a happy winner in the visa lottery. In 2010 he supported Jobbik and attended Gábor Vona’s mega-rally.  The far-right Jobbik Party and Magyar Gárda leader held a successful two-day event in Cleveland with 300 participants.  It was organized by “a man from Florida,” Mr. Csibi declined to name him.

Mr. Csibi says that he does not use Hungarian government money to operate his portal.

Mr. Vona (third from right) with Mr. Csibi (fourth from right) in Cleveland in 2010.

The U.S. Government is taking foreign financed propaganda more seriously lately and has a dedicated center for countering the activities.  The Global Engagement Center at the U.S. Department of State has defined the so called Disinformation and Propaganda Ecosystem which has five main pillars: official government communications, state-funded global messaging, cultivation of proxy sources, weaponization of social media, and cyber-enabled disinformation.

It is worth reading their report. (Read more about foreign financed propaganda here)

György Lázár

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