Hungarian government breaks promise, uses emails to push politics

On 24 February, the government sent an email newsletter responding to the situation in Ukraine, which said: “we consider it irresponsible and do not support the opposition position that Hungary should send soldiers and weapons to Ukraine.” [Shutterstock / oatawa]

As the country enters the pre-election period, the Hungarian government has been using emails shared during the vaccination drive to promote unrelated policies despite earlier promises to only contact citizens with jab-related information, Telex reported.

At the launch of the government’s official ‘Vakcinainfo’ web page in December 2020, there were concerns that the optional consent for data management given during registration left too much leeway for the authorities to utilise users’ email addresses as they see fit.

At the time, the government told Telex that it would only use the mandate to disseminate information about vaccinations.

However, for days now, Hungarians have been receiving emails with the subject line “Do you know what the most important changes are in 2022?” from the government.

The text speaks of policies such as wage increases, tax cuts, the return of the 13th-month pension and pension increases, income tax exemption for youth under 25, family tax rebates and other family allowances, and a state-subsidised solar panel installation programme.

The vaccinations and the pandemic are mentioned only briefly towards the end of the email.

Without answering Telex’s questions about why the government backtracked on previous promises, the prime minister’s office answered the outlet’s inquiry: “the government always follows strict data protection rules when sending out information letters”.

“[Only] those who have given their consent to receive such a letter may have received it”, the office added.

Hungary entered the pre-election period on Tuesday, as President János Áder announced general parliamentary elections would be held on 3 April.

(Vlagyiszlav Makszimov | EURACTIV.com with Telex)

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