Polish news outlets are protesting a proposed tax on ads that critics say authorities will use to undermine press freedom. Government officials claim that the tax will boost health care spending during the pandemic.
Independent media outlets in Poland suspended news coverage on Wednesday to protest a planned tax on advertising revenues.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki added that the "solidarity fee" will also help fund the cultural sector.
Government spokesman Piotr Mueller said on state TVP Tuesday that similar tax exist in many European countries.
Eroding press freedom in Eastern Europe
What do independent media outlets think of the tax?
The new levy would weaken and perhaps force the closure of some media outlets operating in Poland, limiting choice for their audiences, around 40 broadcasters wrote in an open letter to Polish authorities and leaders of political parties.
It could also prevent quality reporting on local level and further disadvantage private media, the outlets' representatives said in the letter.
Poland's main private channel TVN, owned by the US group Discovery, told the AFP news agency that the government proposal had "the intention of restricting their pluralism and freedom of expression."
Gazeta Wyborcza called the advertising tax on Wednesday, "a powerful blow to free media."
On its webpage it warned that, if advertising tax is passed, it could eventually cut off readers from their access to independent news.
Radio Zet told its listeners that the tax would mean "liquidation for some media businesses."
"There is no free country without independent media. There is no freedom without freedom of choice," the radio station said.
Is Poland curbing press freedoms?
Poland's government has already overseen a number of changes that have restricted independent media outlets.
It replaced journalists working in public radio and TV stations. It also tried to strangle several independent print media outlets, such as Gazeta Wyborcza, Polityka and Newsweek Polska by restricting public advertising.