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Holding Computers Aloft, Thousands March in Budapest Against Anti-Democratic Internet Tax

'Those who use the Internet see more of the world, that’s why the government doesn’t want a free Internet,' organizer says

Protesters held their phones aloft during the protest in Budapest Sunday night. (Photo: euronews)

Thousands of protesters—more than 10,000, according to some reports—took to the streets of Budapest on Sunday, denouncing a proposed tax on Internet use they say is anti-democratic and discriminates against Hungary's poor.

Demonstrators gave the Hungarian government 48 hours to scrap the planned tax of 62 cents per gigabyte of data, which they see as an attempt by Prime Minister Viktor Orban to restrict freedom of information.

The protesters held their cell phones in the air, calling for 'Free Internet!' and 'Free Hungary!' Some threw old computer equipment against the locked gates of the ruling Fidesz party’s headquarters. Organizers vowed to protest again on Tuesday if their demands were not met.

Orban, who took office in 2010 and was re-elected in April, "has been accused of flirting with authoritarianism," according to Agence France-Presse (AFP). Organizers told AFP they believe the tax is aimed at restricting government critics who mainly use online media, and that it would "hurt small businesses and make it harder for people, particularly in poor areas, to access information and educational material."

"Those who use the Internet see more of the world, that’s why the government doesn’t want a free Internet," organizer Balazs Gulyas told the crowd. "We’re not going to pay an Internet tax to a corrupt tax authority."

In response to the rally, the Fidesz party said it would cap the tax, but organizers said protests would continue until the tax is eliminated entirely. 

Their grievances go beyond the proposed levy. "It is not only because of the Internet tax," one woman told Euronews, "but we are also fed up with the government, we are fed up with stealing and corruption."

Watch the Euronews video of the protest below:

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