The Hungarian government’s decision to tax internet traffic in the country saw more than 10,000 people stage a demonstration against the move on Sunday.
The protestors marched through the centre of Budapest to demand the ruling Fidesz party withdraw the draft bill. If passed into law, the tax will significiantly affect not only the country’s economy, but education and freedom of expression as well, protesters say.
In its current form, the new tax would stipulate that ISPs have to pay 150 forints (€0.49) for every gigabyte of data traffic generated by consumers and companies, starting from 2015. Although the government has said the new tax will be paid only by ISPs, the Association of IT, Telecommunications and Electronics Companies believes that the measure will force members to raise the prices they charge customers.
Hungarians started their march in Budapest on József Nádor Square, moved down Andrássy Street and then to Heroes Square. Several protesters walked further to the Fidesz party headquarters, where they threw keyboards, mice and old gadgets at the building and damaged several windows, according to Budapest Business Journal.
Two demonstrators managed to climb onto the balcony of the Fidesz building, where they placed an EU flag. Cheers and applauses followed.
Neelie Kroes, the EU’s digital chief, has asked Twitter users to help spread the news about the proposed legislation: "I urge you to join or support people outraged at #Hungary Internet tax plan," she said.
Among the demonstrators were Budapest’s ex-mayor Gábor Demszky and US chargé d'affaires, André Goodfriend.
During the protest, people used their smartphone as flashlights and lit up the square in front of the economy ministry. They had signs that read “Free Wi-Fi! Free Internet! Free Hungary”, accordig to AFP, and shouted "We want democracy" and "Viktator", a combination between the word dictator and prime minister’s Viktor Orbán name, Hungary Today reported.
People said they will hit the streets again in 48 hours time if the new bill doesn’t get withdrawn. On Monday morning, Fidesz officials told the media that the demonstration won’t force government to abandon the plan to tax Internet traffic, BBJ writes.
However, Hungary's ruling party announced on Sunday that the new tax will have a cap at 700 forints (€2.27) per individual per month, and 5,000 forints (€16.2) for businesses, EUobserver noted.
The Hungarian government has been widely accused of anti-democratic policies. In recent years, it has also put new taxes on the banking, retail, energy and telecom sectors in order to tackle the country's deficit.