Friday

26th May 2017

Free press groups raise 'alert' on Polish media law

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and other free-press defenders have issued a joint complaint against Poland over its controversial media reforms.

The groups told the Strasbourg-based human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe, on Monday (4 January) that Poland's new law on public service media "is wholly unacceptable in a genuine democracy.”

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Media groups have issued a formal complaint against Poland (Photo: AK Rockefeller)

The statement, submitted by the IFJ, the Association of European Journalists (AEJ), the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), urges Poland's ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party to abandon the proposed legislation "at once.”

The law, which was rushed through Polish parliament in late December, removes guarantees for the independence of public service TV and radio.

It allows a government minister to appoint and dismiss all members of the supervisory and management boards of public media outlets.

The IFJ and the other NGOs say the new system makes public service media outlets "wholly dependent on the goodwill and favour of the government.”

The journalist groups noted the proposed changes were put to a vote in parliament without public debate.

They also say the law undermines the Council of Europe's 2012 declaration on public service media governance.

The declaration states public service media must remain independent of political or economic interference and must be transparent.

The NGOs' complaint does not constitute a court case.

But the Council of Europe has given it the status of an "alert" - a formal statement issued to its member states, which is designed to prompt a public dialogue between Warsaw and the Strasbourg-based body.

The AEJ, for its part, in a letter addressed to top Polish government officials in late December, also said the law would lead to “systematic editorial bias” in favour of PiS.

PiS won a majority in both of Poland's chambers of parliament in October general elections.

The move is seen by some as a power grab by PiS chairman, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, in his campaign to disseminate a brand of conservative Christian and nationalist values.

The legislation has drawn wider international criticism, with the European Commission asking Poland to justify how it meets EU standards on free speech.

The commission is to hold a debate on the situation on 13 January, with the German EU commissioner, for one, saying Poland could face unprecedented punitive measures.

The issue is also likely to come up at the European Parliament, with liberal group leader Guy Verhofstadt describing the law as moving Poland in the direction of Russia-type authoritaarinaism.

He said it’s “another hastily adopted step to quickly create facts and dissolve Poland from the European value order, manipulating the country eastwards.”

His reference to “another … step” comes after a previous PiS law which extends political control over Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal.

Poland under Kaczynski has been compared to Hungary under its hardman PM Viktor Orban.

But Orban has, to an extent, escaped EU censure due the protection of the centre-right EPP group in Brussels, the largest political group, of which his Fidesz party is a member.

PiS also has allies in the EU assembly, where it sits with the eurosceptic Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformist (ECR) together with the ruling British Conservative Party.

On Monday, Polish PiS MEP Anna Fotyga lashed out at Verhofstadt, saying he should "think twice before he describes a person like me as national socialist and as a helper of [Russian leader Vladmir] Putin."

Opinion

End of the line for Warsaw Express?

From Warsaw to Budapest and beyond, the EU must protect civil society, judicial independence and freedom of expression. All are vital in the fight against corruption.

Children among dead in UK bomb attack

Children are among the victims after a suspected suicide bomber detonated at the Manchester Arena on Monday, the latest in a string of terror attacks to hit Europe.

EU visa waiver looms for Russia-annexed Crimeans

Visa liberalisation for Ukrainians entering the EU will also apply to inhabitants of the peninsula taken over by Moscow in 2014. But the issue poses administrative as well as political problems.

News in Brief

  1. British PM to speak out on US terrorism leaks
  2. Tusk calls for 'values, not just interests' after Trump meeting
  3. Pressure grows on climate impact of EU timber harvesting
  4. US goes after Fiat Chrysler over emissions cheat
  5. Munich police break up Europe-wide burglar clan
  6. Report: VW threatened with €19.7 billion French fine
  7. Turkey begins mass trial of suspected coup leaders
  8. Merkel's CDU consolidates lead in polls

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFChild Alert on Myanmar: Fruits of Rapid Development yet to Reach Remote Regions
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersBecome an Explorer - 'Traces of Nordic' Seeking Storytellers Around the World
  3. Malta EU 2017Closer Cooperation and Reinforced Solidarity to Ensure Security of Gas Supply
  4. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceHigh-Intensity Interval Training Is Therapeutic Option for Type 2 Diabetes
  5. Dialogue Platform"The West Must Help Turkey Return to a Democratic Path" a Call by Fethullah Gulen
  6. ILGA-EuropeRainbow Europe 2017 Is Live - Which Countries Are Leading on LGBTI Equality?
  7. Centre Maurits CoppietersWhen You Invest in a Refugee Woman You Help the Whole Community
  8. Eurogroup for AnimalsECJ Ruling: Member States Given No Say on Wildlife Protection In Trade
  9. European Heart NetworkCall for Urgent Adoption of EU-Wide Nutrient Profiles for Nutrition & Health Claims
  10. Counter BalanceInvestment Plan for Europe More Climate Friendly but European Parliament Shows Little Ambition
  11. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi: China's Belt and Road Initiative Benefits People Around the World
  12. Malta EU 2017EU Strengthens Control of the Acquisition and Possession of Firearms