Don’t trust anyone without 3G. The Internet is a symbol of freedom and openness in Hungary, which protesters fear could go the way of Putin’s Russia.
Tens of thousands of Hungarians demonstrated in Budapest on Sunday over a proposed Internet tax by Prime Minister Victor Orban and his ruling Fidesz Party.
The protest was organized by a Facebook group with over 210,000 followers. The protestors stood in front of the Economy Ministry, where they held their cell phones high. Others threw old computer equipment at the Fidesz Party headquarters.
The tax would charge telecom companies about 61 cents per gigabyte of data. The government promised to cap the tax at approximately $2.92 in Hungarian currency. Hungary already taxes telephone calls and text messages. The country’s VAT on goods and services is 27%, the highest in the European Union. So the Internet is already taxed, and this would constitute an additional tax. The new tax would help the country lower its budget deficit.
Orban’s party, Fidesz, assumed power in 2010 and has a two-thirds majority in parliament. But despite the widespread support, younger and more liberal Hungarians distrust its authoritarian streak.
It’s not about the money
Daniel Mayer, a 26-year-old student protester in Budapest, told Deutsche Welle that the tax itself is not very high, but it’s the symbolism that matters.
“The Internet is something which was free and not controlled or influenced by the government. Our print and traditional media is awful, and you have to pay for it.”
“At the demonstration, there were a lot of posters and people shouting, we don’t want to pay money to the corrupt tax agency, so the people are well aware of the shortfalls of the government.”
Indeed, Orban has openly expressed admiration for Russian premier Vladimir Putin. He says he would like to turn Hungary into an “illiberal state” along the lines of Russia, China and Turkey.
Photo credits: Kutigaby, Instagram, Lahajnal, Instagram