Proposal for heavy advertising tax in Hungary seen threatening press freedoms

Hungarian journalists and analysts say that a new proposal to tax media advertising revenues threatens the free press.

A draft bill presented by Laszlo L. Simon, a lawmaker from the governing Fidesz party, would tax media companies' annual advertising revenues in several steps, rising to a maximum rate of 40 percent on revenues above 20 billion forints ($89 million).

Peter Csermely, deputy editor of the generally pro-Fidesz Magyar Nemzet newspaper, said Tuesday that the proposal is a government attempt "to step on the throat of press freedom" by weakening it financially.

Agnes Urban, an analyst at Mertek Media Monitor, said the tax could also increase government influence on Hungary's commercial television market.

RTL Hungary, the country's largest broadcaster, said the tax would push it into the red, threatening jobs.