100,000 Hungarian Demonstrators Protest Internet Tax


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Protests background and guideline

Hungary’s government plans to introduce an unprecedented internet tax.

  • Hungary’s government is planning to cut off the population from the Internet to further it’s grip on the media landscape via an aggressive idiosyncratic data volume based Internet tax
  • A charge of 150 HUF/GB (ca. 0.50 EUR, 0.60 USD) will be levied by the government. Early estimates place the total burden of the Internet tax above 200Bn HUF (65M EUR, 83M USD) annually.
  • The population will not be able to use the Internet to access non-government controlled media, and be thus obstructed from the last remaining independent sources of information.
  • The tax undermines technological development and will create a major hurdle for businesses to operate.
  • In less than 48 hours 200K Facebook users signed up to the to the protest page and 30K citizens Rsvp-ing to the demonstration to be held in front of the ministry of finance, at Nador sq on Sunday, 6pm CET.

Hungarian Government Attacks On Internet Freedom

In its latest and most aggressive crackdown on democratic rights and freedoms, the Hungarian Government has introduced a new measure to tax use of the internet – one of the last remaining platforms for independent media, information and communications in Hungary.

The move is part of the Orban government‘s increasingly repressive efforts to control and punish independent media and civil society watchdog groups through both legal and economic means. It follows a wave of alarming anti-democratic measures by Orban that is pushing Hungary even further adrift from Europe. These include a recent advertising tax on media companies aimed at punishing critical outlets and a series of police raids and investigations by Hungarian tax authorities into freedom of expression NGOs that serve an essential role in promoting democratic discourse and debate.

Orban’s new tax on internet is direct attack on the freedom of expression and the right to access information. It risks disconnecting Hungary with global information and communication channels. The measure would impede equal access to the internet – deepening the digital divide between Hungary’s lower economic groups and limiting internet access for cash-poor schools and universities. It would also cripple Hungarian small businesses and their right to compete EU’s the single common digital market.

The protesters claim to defend the fundamental right to freedom of expression and information, as guaranteed to all citizens under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the EU Charter of Fundamental Human Rights. They oppose the Hungarian Government’s attempt to strip us of these fundamental rights, which is in violation of the set of international treaties and obligations that Hungary is legally bound to uphold.

Dismantling democracy

Mr. Orban’s government wants to distract the population from the rampant corruption, failing policies, and series of international scandals by creating an outrageous tax on Internet usage. Besides diverting attention, the Orban regime’s objective is to extend its control over the media landscape in Hungary. Having enacted a highly restrictive media law, fostered an atmosphere of self-censorship among journalist, created murky media ownership structure among other means of media control; they are now switching off the Internet. Activist and protest organizer Balazs Gulyas says:

The tax is really scary, it throws us back 30 years. I think a lot of businesses will have to move.

Mr Orban’s regime says the internet tax is designed to increase fairness, as people increasingly use online services for telephony and text messaging; the tax the government says is to promote fairness will in fact have a chilling effect on access to information online and further cut off the public from free and impartial information, in the latest example of a tightening political and media climate in Hungary.

In a totally new twist on preventing access, fiscal means are used over the technical approach used in Iran or China. His aim is to control information flows to Hungarians – to block access to global communications. This is the next logical step for Mr Orban, having dismantled the cornerstones of a democratic, pluralistic society step by step over the last 5 years. His declared aim is to move Hungary away from the family of democratic, liberal societies and make it look like Putin’s Russia. Access to information and communication is a keynote of open and democratic societies; the attempt to created closed systems are the soviet-style authoritarian counterparts – say the protest leaders.

FactSheet: why are the protesters against the tax?

Freedom of Speech/Human Rights

  • attempt to create a digital iron curtain – Russia has been accused of deploying same techniques; China and Iran are other examples Orban is following in his effort to control communications and to isolate Hungary from the important sources of international communications and information.
  • Internet is the last uncontrolled media territory; Orban using financial means to obstruct access to online media and communications; this policy risks further isolating Hungary from the European and global community by creating economic barriers to internet access.
  • In 2011, the United Nations declared internet access a fundamental human right.

Domestic Policy

  • Counter the official line of getting Hungary online, connecting rural communities and opening new opportunities for the economically under-privileged
  • According to new reports, the bill aims to cover costs of increased wages for police and military.
  • The policy violates the notion of having a common EU digital market.
  • No consultation, no feasibility study, the whole thing just sprang out of Orban’s head, who is a digital illiterate; it is said he cannot differentiate between email and fax
  • Exactly the opposite of what every normal country does — where many EU countries are pursuing policies that would make Internet access free and accessible to all citizens, Orban is looking to do the opposite.
  • Distract people from massive social, economic problems and unparalleled international scandals (South Stream, Paks Nuclear Power Plant, rampant corruption, sucking up to Russia, US travel bans).

Adverse economic effects

  • Makes doing business in Hungary even more expensive.
  • Adds bureaucracy.
  • Will force companies using the Internet (e.g. call-centers) to move.
  • Start-ups will not be able to access cheap online resources.
  • Majority of cloud services will not prevail.
  • Negative impact on technological innovation within Hungary – one of the most promising economic drivers – and produce capital flight, as companies will be forced to leave the country due to excessive state regulations and tax burdens..
  • Metering and and levying are too complicated.

Adverse social impact

  • Education will be more expensive and less accessible.
  • Academic Research will suffer, i.e. CERN’s computer center located in KFKI will have to move.
  • Usage of modern communication technologies, i..e cloud service will be unattainable.
  • Capped or uncapped the tax is going to hit poorer citizens harder; ensuring they only get government propaganda.

Tax revenue needed due to bad governance

  • Failing economic policies; Orban does not understand economics
  • Corrupt government institutions, such as the Tax Authority will be trusted to
    levy the money (see US blacklisting of top government officials; and conspicuous and ostentatious spending of top Fidesz people: Rogan, Szijarto, Kosa, Orban, etc)

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Press release by Százezren az internetadó ellen – 100000 against the Internet tax.

Featured photo originally published on Facebook.


Krytyka Polityczna
Krytyka Polityczna (Political Critique) is the largest Eastern European liberal network of institutions and activists. It consists of the online daily Dziennik Opinii, a quarterly magazine, publishing house, cultural centres in Warsaw, Łódź, Gdańsk and Cieszyn, activist clubs in a dozen cities in Poland (and also in Kiev and Berlin), as well as a research centre: the Institute for Advanced Study in Warsaw.