Hungary: Protests against the proposed Internet tax

29.10.2014 | By András Kovács

The Facebook group „Százezren az internetadó ellen” (Hundred thousand against the Internet tax) collected more than 200 thousand likes in a few days.

The group’s leader Balázs Gulyás has also organised a protest after the other demonstration announced on Facebook had been deleted. The other group(whose event was deleted) „Nemnémulunk el” (We won’t be quiet) issued a statement in which they proclaimed they knew about the political background of the organizer of the newprotest (counting more than 40 thousand attendees), still, they deem the protest against Internet tax more important than partisanship. Right-wing website also emphasized the Socialist background of the organizer. Gulyás stated he never received any pay for holding a public office or working for a political party.

Former EU-commissioner Neelie Kroes supported the rally on Twitter .The protest was on the same day as another protest by football fans, which ended peacefully.The event started at 6 p.m., with around 10 thousand people. After a half hour speech by Gulyás, in which he gave the government  48 hours to withdraw the plan, the protesters marched from József nádor Sqare to the Heroes’ square, where the official part of the event ended. After this, some participants went to Fidesz’s head office on Lendvay Street, where old electronic devices were thrown at the building, some windows were smashed and the flag of the European Union was hoisted.A reporter of the right-wing television HírTV was insulted and knocked over on livetelevision. Százezren az internetadó ellen condemned these actions, and so did the Fidesz party. They have issued a statement, proposing that the tax would be maximized to 700 Forints (roughly EUR 2.2) and that they want companies to pay it. They also emphasized that the party is ready to hear other opinions „with friendship and patience”, but violence cannot be an answer.

Editor of the right-wing magazine Demokrata, András Bencsik, also issued a statement on Facebook. In his views the US is „not our friend and not even our ally” and is trying to influence Hungarian politics. As Mr. Bencsik stated, the fact that the US chargé d’affaires in Hungary, André Goodriend, took part in the demonstration is a sign of this influence. In his view, „the Orbán government cannot be abolished because of its (…) level of integration with the society”. This view is in total contrast with the previous statements of Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó, or even Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office János Lázár. They both empathized the friendship between the US and Hungary. This contrast can be a sign of some serious internal debates between party members. The participation of André Goodfriend also sparked a discussion on Twitter between Goodfriend and Zoltán Kovács, the government’s international spokesman, resulting in an interesting debate, where Mr. Kovács attacked the chargé d’affaires because of his involvement in the demonstration. The protest can be a sign of a new wave of youth involvement in politics as so far the younger generation of Hungarians has kept quiet after the student protests in 2012. The importance of Internet, it seems, is not appreciated in some governmental circles. The other issue that we can clearly see here is the change in the Hungarian-American relationship. Both of these issues can be seen in a statement by Minister János Lázár, who said “I will not pay so much as I am not a frequent Internet user […], especially since the USA (who is our friend of course) spies on our e-mails”.

According Reuters Agency yesterday night  about 100,000 Hungarians rallied on Tuesday night to protest at a planned tax.It was by far the largest protest since his centre-right government took power in 2010.

Picture: Dániel Zoltán Aczél

About Author

András Kovács

bachelor degree in International Studies at Eötvös Loránd University, member of Mathias Corvinus Collegium (Central Europe Special Track). His fields of interest are majority-minority relations, Central European history and politics and West African politics