Some Polish newspapers leave first page blank in defence of reporting

Several Polish daily newspapers on Tuesday published an open letter to the European Parliament, and some left their first page blank, as they seek new legislation to protect journalists and editors.

The main broadsheets such as Rzeczpospolita (RP), Dziennik Gazeta Prawna (DGP) and Gazeta Wyborcza (GW), all published the document - GW on its first page.

Several dailies - RP, DGP and Puls Biznesu - also left their first page blank.

"By this symbolic blank first page," DGP explained, "we wish to draw the attention of readers to the problem that digital giants prey on journalistic content."

Several newspapers around Europe made a similar gesture and Bogusław Chrabota, RP's editor-in-chief, said the blank page is a metaphor of their non-existence.

"We are in favour of freedom of the internet, like all users," he added, but this "should not mean for some the unrestricted use of other people's authorship rights, and for others the spectre of bankruptcy."

"On September 12, the future of the European press will be in your hands," the RP editor wrote to the readers. "We appeal to you to vote for the introduction of the related law for the editors of press publications."

This refers to the proposed new European Union directive which would change how content is published and monitored on the internet.

As Tuesday's open letter to the EP specifies, of particular importance is Article 11, "when it comes to the protection of a free, professional and independent press in the member states and in Europe."

At the moment, "the main American technological players are using press content free of charge" and command 70 percent of the digital-advertisement market," the letter states.

In the absence of appropriate rules, quality of news diminishes and fake news spreads, the authors added.

Under the new directive, profits from the use of press content would be directed to those who create and finance it. This and authorship rights for journalists, the letter goes on to note, would "help restore balance between the press and global digital platforms."

There is also opposition to the proposed legislation, with warnings of "censorship of the internet". Lawmakers in the EP, thus far, are divided - both within political factions and within national delegations.