(MTI) – Commercial television channel RTL Hungary said on Friday it rejected suggestions that would imply to the public that it failed to fulfil its tax obligations.
In a statement RTL said it had paid nearly 9 billion forints (EUR 29.4m) in tax last year. RTL is considering taking legal action in wake of statements made by Janos Lazar, the head of the prime minister’s office, and published by business daily Napi Gazdasag on Friday.
Lazar said “the management of commercial channel RTL believes they stand above the law and do not need to pay tax.” Commenting on the channel’s recent frequent reports on the government’s activities and Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s family, Lazar said a company would treat a country and its citizens this way only if it “considered the country a colony”.
RTL said in response to the government’s recent move introducing an ad tax that “its real aim is to put RTL in an impossible situation and to heavily curtail press freedom”. With its 15 percent market share, RTL would be paying more than 50 percent of the total tax burden on the sector from 2015 on, which is “clearly against the principle of fair burden-sharing,” the statement said.
Lazar told Napi Gazdasag that “this is a most serious issue for the Bertelsmann group and international media companies because RTL Klub has proven that it is a corrupt business.” It begs the question why RTL Klub had not criticised the government in its reports in the past, he added.
“As long as there is no tax, there are no programmes discrediting (the government) but if a tax must be paid, then they scrutinise Viktor Orban’s father and daughter or his friend Lorinc Meszaros. This is unimaginable in an EU country,” Lazar said.
Asked whether there is a possibility that the government might introduce a special tax in other areas where extra profits are generated, he said this option would be considered when the 2015 budget is prepared.
The opposition Socialists, in response, said Lazar was unsuitable to serve as Hungary’s chief negotiator to the EU because he disregards basic norms of press freedom.
Zoltan Lukacs, the deputy party group leader, said that recent statements made by the government prove that the ad tax was introduced not under budgetary pressure, but only in an effort to hamper the operation of media outlets that criticise the government.
He called on Lazar to drop the ad tax and consider levying an “oligarchs tax” that would raise ten times more than the one passed last week.