Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki assured on the weekend that a proposed tax on advertising income would not affect free speech or media pluralism in Poland.
In a Facebook post, Morawiecki argued that the government’s actions are “a part of the general trend present in the EU and OECD aiming at effective taxation of global corporations in the digital and media sectors.”
He added that the government’s concept “anticipates certain solutions being applied in the EU so that the introduction of a digital tax at that level would not in the future require major legislative change”.
The Polish government is proposing a tax on income from digital and conventional advertising which is to be levied on all media outlets which have advertising revenue above a certain threshold. The money raised will be designated for Poland’s health service and for funding of the world of arts and culture hit by the pandemic restrictions.
The Polish prime minister argued that corporations have for decades been evading taxes through charging for brands and intellectual properties. He also promised that a process of consultation would enable the government to find the right threshold at which the tax would be levied so that small local media outlets would not be harmed.
Morawiecki also reminded that his party’s government has consistently argued against any attempts to restrict the freedom of speech on the internet, regardless of whether these attempts to control internet content from public bodies or the Big Tech companies.
The Polish government’s plans were contested last week by large parts of Poland’s electronic and printed media. In protest at the tax proposal, they staged a 24-hour blackout on content in an attempt to show how media would look like without readers, listeners and viewers having choice. Two of Poland’s three main television networks did not broadcast their programs and only featured screens blacked out with an explanation of the protest on the screens.
A part of the ruling coalition has come out against the measure, arguing that it was wrong to increase taxation during a recession and complained that no consultation had been conducted with them over the measure. The “Agreement” party of Deputy Prime Minister Jarosław Gowin, which is itself embroiled in controversy over the leadership of the party, holds the balance of power in Polish Parliament.
Without their support, the tax increase will not pass.