Internet tax sparks mass protests in Hungary

Up to 10,000 demonstrators rallied in the Hungarian capital against the proposed law

Thousands took to the streets of the Hungarian capital, Budapest, on Sunday to protest against a planned tax on using the internet.

Demonstrators congregated in the city’s historic Heroes Square, outside the economy ministry, holding their mobile phones aloft.

Others threw old computers against the locked gates of the ruling Fidesz party’s headquarters, breaking windows in the process.

The rally was attended by more than 10,000 people, according to local websites.

Activists said the bill will curb fundamental democratic rights, deepen Hungary’s digital divide and impede access to the internet.

The draft law, introduced to parliament on Tuesday, proposes to tax internet providers for each gigabyte of data traffic at a rate of 150 forints, or £0.38.

Prime Minister Victor Orban’s government has been widely accused of adopting a raft of illiberal policies since he last came to power in 2010.

A statement by the organisers of “100,000 against the internet tax”, said: "The move... follows a wave of alarming anti-democratic measures by Orban that is pushing Hungary even further adrift from Europe."

The group has given the government 48 hours to withdraw the legislation and have vowed to protest on Tuesday if their demands are not met.

Some protesters said that the proposed policy epitomises the government’s regressive economic policies.

"This would be a double tax on us, as I have already paid a sky-high VAT when I bought the gadgets, computer and router," said Attila Sos, 43, who went to the protest with his family.

"This is a good occasion for a lot of people to come here to show that they are discontent with the government's tax and economic policies. This was only the icing on the cake."

Krisztina Nagy, 21, who wants to be a programmer, said: "The Internet connects people and it should not be limited.”

In response to the demonstration, the governing party has said it will submit an amendment to the law, capping the monthly payments of the tax.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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