Thousands of Hungarians march against Internet tax | News | DW | 29.10.2014
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Thousands of Hungarians march against Internet tax

Tens of thousands have marched in Hungary to protest against a plan to tax use of the Internet. Budapest claims the tax - which has been condemned by the EU - is necessary to plug gaps in government finances.

As many as 100,000 people were said to have taken to the streets of Budapest on Tuesday, to protest a plan to tax the use of the Internet from 2015.

The rally was the second in three days objecting to the new law that would force Internet service providers to pay a capped amount of 700 forints ($2.89, 2.27 euros) per month per individual subscriber. Business subscribers would pay 5,000 forints.

"We are not going to let it happen," the crowd chanted as it passed through the center of the capital to rally in front of the economy ministry.

Zsolt Varady, founder of a Hungarian social media website, told the crowd: "The internet tax is a symbol of the government autocracy."

Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government has said it merely seeks to shift tax generation to the Internet, with people increasing switching from taxed telephony and text messaging services to platforms provided over the Internet.

Sharing the load?

The government claims the cost will be borne by Internet service providers and that all sectors need to contribute to keep Hungary's budget deficit in check.

Orban's government has already introduced special taxes on the banking, retail, energy and telecommunications sectors, causing some degree of trepidation among international investors.

However, opponents of the law claim that the government is symptomatic of the autocratic way the administration is running the country. Critics claim Orban is seeking to limit Internet freedoms, including access to foreign media that might be more critical of his ruling Fidesz party.

The protest on Tuesday was believed to have been the biggest since Orban took power in 2010, since when his government has faced repeated accusations of trying to unjustly consolidate power.

Among the more unpopular steps that Orban has taken are a perceived attempt to undermine the independence of the judiciary and the introduction of a law that critics say curbs press freedom.

The European Commission, which has had fraught relations with Orban's government, on Tuesday said the Internet tax was "wrong" and part of a "troubling" pattern of curbed freedoms in Hungary.

rc/av (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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