Strike! Poland's free press fights new taxes

In Poland, dozens of media companies suspended publication on Wednesday. Newspapers left their front pages blank or published an open letter entitled "Media Without Choice". The protest actions were triggered by a new law that introduces taxes on media advertising and, according to the strikers, aims to stifle the independent press. Most commentators are also alarmed by the legislation.

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Polityka (PL) /

Copying Orbán's salami tactics

The tax is politically motivated, rails Jerzy Baczyński, editor-in-chief of the weekly magazine Polityka:

“In the last legislative period the PiS concentrated on the public service media, filled them with its own people and turned them into a centrally managed propaganda system. ... Now the time for the second stage of 'cleaning up the media market' has come, copying the salami tactics employed by Viktor Orbán in Hungary: sources of income are whittled away, the media are subject to legal constraints, access to information is blocked, fines are imposed and new taxes are levied. The aim is no doubt to convince media company owners either to build good relationships with those in power or to get out of the market altogether.”

Le Soir (BE) /

That ship has sailed

Warsaw is deliberately gagging independent voices, comments Le Soir:

“The party-state that the PiS has become is pursuing its efforts to gain control over all levers of power and social influence by increasing its attacks on opposition forces that have so far remained independent, such as local authorities and private independent media. ... Is this hard blow to the independent media the end of Polish democracy? Experiences with other 'successful democratures' show that looking for an abrupt turning point is essentially pointless. All it takes is to suppress the judiciary, the media, businesses and the 'third sector' (culture and associations) to turn elections into a mere formality that can no longer bring about real political change. This has been happening in Poland for five years.” (PL) /

Profit-driven protest

The protesting media companies are not really fighting for their freedom, counters:

“The bottom line is: this isn't about freedom, it's about money. ... It's understandable that the owners of TV stations or major websites are concerned. They'll have less in their pockets in the future. ... Sure, they have the right to fight for their profits. ... Since they resort to manipulation on a daily basis, it's no wonder they're doing the same thing now. ... The hard truth is that most media owners will advertise any rubbish just to make money. And that being the case, they should share this income with the citizens they use to earn it.”