BRATISLAVA (Reuters) - The Slovak parliament appears ready to bow to protests by publishers and journalists by softening a government draft law which calls for a tax increase on newspapers, Slovak dailies reported on Friday. Parliament is to vote soon on a proposal by Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar's government to increase the value added tax (VAT) to 23 percent from the current six percent on newspapers with more than 10 percent advertising content. But a key parliamentary committee, controlled by Mečiar's ruling coalition deputies, said it had agreed to alter the draft in order to raise the level of advertising content before the increased VAT would be applied to 50 percent. Publishers and the political opposition have said the plan is an attempt to muzzle press freedom and criticism of the government ahead of next year's parliamentary elections. The proposal has also sparked criticism by foreign journalists' organisations. The government has faced repeated criticism from EU and U.S. officials over the slow pace of democratic reform which has led to Slovakia's exclusion from the first wave of EU and NATO expansion. Slovak newspapers on Friday quoted Miroslav Maxon, chairman of the finance committee and a member of Mečiar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), as saying the change was a compromise after talks deputies and media representatives. "We still find this solution not completely satisfactory but it is acceptable to us," Milos Nemeček, chairman of the Association of the Newspapers Publishers, told the independent daily Pravda. He said the majority of dailies and weeklies published in Slovakia would be unaffected by the VAT law in the revised form proposed by the committee. The proposal must still be approved by parliament and a vote could come as early as Friday. Publishers said the original plan would increase the price of dailies, leading to an estimated 20 percent drop in circulation and threatening the papers with financial ruin.