Polish independent media organisations suspended their news coverage on Wednesday morning in protest at a proposed new advertising tax that they see as curbing freedom of the press. According to the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS), the governing party, the aim of the tax is to repair public finances strained by the pandemic, with the money going to health care and culture, and is an effort to force large international corporations to pay their fair share of taxes. Yet independent media see it as a way for the government to limit the press from expressing criticism of it, and have railed against the rushing through of the bill, with the support of the Opposition parties.
Media organisations complained in an open letter that the wildly varying charges facing different companies were “outrageous” and that changing the terms of existing broadcast licenses was unacceptable in a country supposedly governed by the rule of law. They also stated that the tax would raise at most 100 million złoty from global internet giants, while media companies active in Poland would pay 800 million złoty.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has denied any wrongdoing on his part or the part of his political party, PiS, saying that similar laws are in place in France, Italy and Spain. However, the law is being seen as more akin to what is in place in Hungary, where the government controls the vast majority of that country’s media.
The tax would be on business advertising revenue, and ranges from 2 -15%, depending on the size of the company. Many opposition members have decried the figures, stating that several media will not be able to afford the tax, and would simply go under. Worse, they fear that those who cannot afford the tax, will simply sell to the Government, which the Opposition feel very strongly is the intention of the law to begin with.