Tuesday

24th Apr 2018

Focus

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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

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.

EUobserved

When two worlds collide

Two worlds collided at the end of last week. The shrill, uncompromising one of British politics and the technocratic, dry, world of the European Commission.

News in Brief

  1. Far-right attack migrants on Greek island
  2. Merkel defends accepting UN refugees
  3. EU commissioner plans Malta 'money laundering' inspection
  4. Survey: Half of high polluting farms receive CAP subsidies
  5. Commission will 'not shy away' from Malta killing repercussions
  6. EU Commission opens probe on Alitalia state loan
  7. Paris suspect given 20-year sentence for Brussels shoot-out
  8. Merkel and Pena Nieto praise EU-Mexico trade agreement

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  2. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  3. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  4. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  6. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  7. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  8. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  9. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  10. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  11. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight

Latest News

  1. Juncker delays air quality action due to busy agenda
  2. Spain makes bid for EU anti-pirate HQ
  3. How Russian propaganda depicts Europe - should we worry?
  4. MEPs tell Chinese ambassador of concerns on trade
  5. Greenland votes with eye on independence
  6. EU court delivers blow to anti-abortion activists
  7. Hungary activists defiant after 'Soros Mercenaries' attack
  8. European Commission proposes whistleblower protection law

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMacedonians in Bulgaria Demand to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  2. Counter BalanceThe EIB Needs to Lead by Example on Tax Justice
  3. ILGA EuropeTrans People in Sweden to be Paid Compensation for Forced Sterilisation
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Danger of Standing Up for Justice and Rights in Central Asia
  5. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Must Work Together to Promote Global Steel Sector
  6. Swedish EnterprisesEU Tax Proposal on Digital Services Causes Concern for Small Exporting Economies
  7. European Jewish CongressCondemns the Horrific Murder of Holocaust Survivor Mireille Knoll in Paris
  8. Mission of China to the EUAn Open China Will Foster a World-Class Business Environment
  9. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  10. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  11. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  12. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations