More than 100,000 join internet tax demo

Analysis

Amy Brouillette

A crowd estimated by Reuters to include more than 100,000 people gathered yesterday for the second demonstration in three days to oppose the proposed internet tax. Similar demonstrations were also held yesterday in other cities around Hungary, including Debrecen, Nyíregyháza, Szeged, Miskolc, Győr and Pécs.

The Budapest protesters marched from József Nádor tér, over the Erzsébet bridge to the Zero Kilometer Stone located in Buda. The stone, which marks the zero point on Hungarian maps, had a symbolic meaning, as it represented the amount the protesters are willing to pay as an internet tax.

Zsolt Várady, founder of now-defunct Hungarian social network iwiw.hu, attended the demonstration and told the crowd that the tax threatened to undermine freedom of the internet. He recalled the growth of the internet and said "people were willing to pay for the service because they knew, saw and felt that their lives were becoming better. ... The Internet tax threatens the further growth of the Internet as well as freedom of information."

The procession was peaceful, and a speaker asked the masses not to chant derogatory terms.

While the internet tax was the main point of the deomonstration, many in the crowd expressed disatisfaction with the various government policies, and there were frequent chants of "dictator!" and "Órban, clear out!", referring to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. There were also many EU flags and chants of "Europe! Europe!" to express solidarity with the rest of Europe.

Zoltán Somogyi political scientist posted on his Facebook page that MSZP “collapsed after the introduction of ‘vizitdíj’ (a fee patients were required to pay for every doctor's visit) worth of HUF 300” and Fidesz “will collapse after introducing internet tax worth of HUF 700.” Should the government stick to the introduction of the internet tax, another demonstration is scheduled for November 17.

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