Independent Polish media in the gun against tax: ‘Attack on press freedom’

Independent media in Poland are protesting against an advertising tax planned by the government. Dozens of radio and TV channels, newspapers and websites participate in it.

The TV channels Polsat and TVN showed a black screen with the text โ€œhere should have been your favorite show.โ€ Several newspapers had a joint statement on the front page in which they turned against the tax. โ€œThis is how Orbรกn turned the free press aroundโ€, it says, among other things, a reference to the Hungarian Prime Minister.

The Conservative PIS government says that the proceeds from the tax are useful to combat the coronapandemic. Half of the money should benefit health care.

But according to the protesting media, it is another attempt to curb the free press and an attack on freedom of the press; they warn that many media will not survive. On the contrary, the government recently allocated a large amount of extra money for public service broadcasting, which serves as the voice of the government.

Media has been under pressure in Poland for a long time. In December, the Polish state oil company bought a major player in the media landscape owned by a German company. As a result, a series of independent newspapers became de facto under the influence of the government in one fell swoop.

Conservative course

Prime Minister Morawiecki says the tax makes the playing field fairer for smaller media. Large companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon would make a bigger contribution. The plan is still being discussed in Parliament, but the Morawiecki PIS party has an absolute majority in it.

Since the PIS party came to power in 2015, Poland is taking a conservative course, which regularly brought the country into conflict with the European Commission and other countries in the European Union. Among other things, there were collisions about the rule of law, which critics said was put under severe pressure.

Poland itself also has a great deal of dissatisfaction with the path taken by the government. Recently, there have been massive protests against an abortion law, which makes it even more difficult to legally have an abortion.