Taxation of broadband and pay TV in Greece violates constitutional rights
A high level international event entitled “Human rights in crisis?” took place in Athens on 3 June 2016. It was jointly organised by the European Bar Human Rights Institute (IDHAE) (http://www.idhae.org) and the Athens Bar Association. Prominent speakers, EU lawyers and professors of constitutional and international law debated the hot topics of the violations of citizens’ human rights and the Greek State sovereignty by the Loan Facility Agreement, the impact of the European migrant crisis on human rights as well as the implications of information overflow on free speech.
The Chairman of the IDHAE, Mr Betrnand Favreau, presented the activities of the Institute and the Academy of Human Rights as well as the Ludovic Trarieux Prize. This is an international human rights prize, awarded annually to a lawyer for his contributions to the defense of human rights. Nelson Mandela has been awarded the first prize in 1985 while in jail. During the Athens event, detained Chinese lawyer Wang Yu, facing a possible life sentence in China, was awarded this prestigious prize for her work defending human rights
Citizen access to Information Society is a fundamental right
The member of the event organizing committee, Dr Leonidas Kanellos, alleged that, instead of subsidizing broadband internet access to reach the Digital Agenda connectivity goals, the Greek government imposed 5% taxes on internet subscriptions together with a 10% levy on subscriber television, to be valid as of 1st July 2016. He further explained that government taxation on communications (mobile tax, internet access tax and pay TV levy), unreasonably restricts the constitutional right of access to the Information Society. As expressly provided in Article 5A of the Hellenic Constitution, restrictions to this right may be imposed by law only insofar they are absolutely necessary on grounds of national security, crime prosecution and third party rights’ protection. Facilitation of access to electronically transmitted information, as well as of the production, exchange and diffusion thereof constitutes an obligation of the State.
Dr Kanellos, as former telecoms regulator and policy maker, having contributed to the broadband penetration reaching the European average by the end of 2013, affirmed that that such undue taxation, especially under the current financial crisis' conditions, violates the constitutional rights that the State is obliged to protect. Moreover, it risks to compromise the country’s economic recovery while slowing down high-speed internet penetration (which in 2015 was only 30,8% of the population with Greece ranging 11th between the 28 EU countries). Finally, such measure distorts competition between Greek ISPs and foreign providers which are not subject to this burden.