Monday

25th Mar 2019

Hungarian media in mass protest against new tax rules

  • Orban's government has denied it is trying to curb press freedom (Photo: Mehr Demokratie)

More than 60 media outlets in Hungary have joined a protest against a planned tax on advertising revenues which the industry says will cripple press freedom in the country.

The move, unprecedented in scale by the politically divided Hungarian media, includes TV broadcasters, radio channels, print, online sites and communication companies.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

TV, radio, and online media held a 15 minute blackout on Thursday (5 June) evening, while Hungary's top newspapers were to be published on Friday with a blank page, reminiscent of the protest against a media law in 2011.

The planned tax supported by Prime Minister Viktor Orban's centre-right government will add little to the budget revenues.

Media companies and press organisations say its real goal is to undermine the press and put the media at the mercy of the government.

Peter Csermely, editor of Magyar Nemzet, a daily generally seen as pro-government, argued in an op-ed that the government's "two-thirds majority wants to step on the throat of press freedom".

The levy would tax Hungarian media companies' annual advertising revenues progressively, at a maximum rate of 40 percent on revenues above 20 billion forints (€65 million).

The lawmaker who submitted the proposal on Monday said he also aims to tax the ad revenues of Internet companies like Facebook, YouTube and Google.

Janos Lazar, Orban's chief of staff, said Wednesday the tax is not a move against the press. Lazar said it is an exaggeration to think that the tax rate has anything to do with democracy and press freedom.

"Only because you have to pay taxes will democracy remain in Hungary," he said, adding the government plans to spend the revenue on education.

Hungary's government has been putting sectorial taxes on telecommunications, banking, energy and other sectors in an effort to consolidate its finances.

Deutsche Telekom dragged into fray

In the meantime turmoil continues at Origo.hu, one of the most popular news portals in Hungary, where the editor-in-chief was abruptly removed on Tuesday after a series of articles questioning the costs of Lazar's official foreign trips.

Several editors and key journalists have resigned along with one of the founders of the site.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) criticised the removal of Origo's editor as well as the planned ad-tax.

Astrid Frohloff, a RSF spokeswoman in Berlin said in a statement that after a resounding election victory in April, that "Orban's government wants to silence critical voices and curb civil society".

She also said the removal of Origo's editor is a severe blow to independent journalism in Hungary.

The press organisation asked for a statement from Origo.hu's ultimate owner, Deutsche Telekom AG.

Hungarian news portal 444.hu reported on Thursday that German economic interests in Hungary played a role in allowing Origo.hu's freedom to be compromised, with the Budapest government planning a comprehensive rural IT development project with Deutsche Telekom.

The German firm said that its subsidiary, Magyar Telekom (the owner of Origo.hu) works independently, and that personnel changes are a result of an internal restructuring that Deutsche Telekom has not influenced.

Magyar Telekom also denied that its partnership signed with the Hungarian government in February has anything to do with the removal of the editor, and said there was no pressure on the company from the government's side.

Leaders of two opposition parties, LMP and Together, have sent letters to Timotheus Hoettges, CEO of Deutsche Telekom AG, and asked that the case of Origo.hu be brought before the firm's management board and general assembly to be investigated thoroughly.

A protest is planned for Monday (9 June) on the Origo affair.

Magazine

The Spitzen process - a coup that was never accepted

It is a divisive 'Brussels bubble' debate: whether to give the European Parliament more of a say on who becomes the next European Commission president. But the issue goes right to the heart of European integration.

News in Brief

  1. Orban vows more EU 'information campaigns'
  2. May 'effectively out of power', says Scottish leader
  3. May under pressure to resign over Brexit endgame
  4. Million march against Brexit, five million sign petition
  5. Italy first G7 country to sign China Belt and Road deal
  6. EU leaders at summit demand more effort on disinformation
  7. Report: Corbyn to meet May on Monday for Brexit talks
  8. Petition against Brexit attracts 2.4m signatures

Magazine

The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.

Magazine

All about the European Parliament elections 2019

EUobserver's new magazine is meant to help readers prepare for the European Parliament elections, no matter their level of knowledge. You can download and read the entire magazine now.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. Romania presidency shatters EU line on Jerusalem
  2. The Spitzen process - a coup that was never accepted
  3. Russia and money laundering in Europe
  4. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  5. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean
  6. Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK
  7. EU avoids Brexit crash, sets new date for 12 April
  8. Campaigning commissioners blur the lines

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us