RSF declares “state of emergency for press freedom” in Poland
In addition to declaring a “state of emergency for press freedom”, the RSF delegation that visited Warsaw on September 9 and 10 urged the lower house (the Sejm) and President Andrzej Duda to reject this amendment. This would force the American media conglomerate Discovery to divest its majority stake in TVN so that TVN would not be deprived of the right to broadcast.
Duda suggested vetoing “the current version” of the amendment to the broadcasting law, an option he has yet to confirm.
“The PiS is pushing for an amendment to the broadcasting law with a clear objective: first to weaken and then take control of the largest independent source of information in this large EU country ”, said Pavol Szalai, head of RSF’s European Union and Balkans office. “Attacking TVN means attacking press freedom in Europe,Szalai added, speaking at a demonstration in front of the Polish Senate on September 9 by a civil society organization known as the “Women’s Strike.”
Szalai pleaded for the renewal of TVN24and explained RSF’s opposition to Lex TVN during a meeting the next day with Witold Kołodziejski, the boss of KRRiT, the agency that oversees Polish audiovisual media.
The opposition-dominated Senate rejected Lex TVN on September 9, but the lower house, which is controlled by the ruling PiS party, has the power to override the Senate’s objection and could approve the amendment as soon as this. week. Or he could decide to keep the suspense over his final decision in order to prolong the pressure on TVN.
The KRRiT has so far refrained from renewing TVN24the property license expires on September 26 and TVN requested renewal a year ago. KRRiT members, most of whom are nominated by ruling coalition parties, have publicly given several possible reasons for refusing renewal, but the legal grounds for those reasons are unclear. TVN24 was forced to apply urgently to the Netherlands for a license allowing it to broadcast its programs within the European Union.
The offensive against TVN group is the latest step in the “repolonization” of private sector media that the government has pursued this year, in which it has used the stated goal of combating foreign interference in public debate as a cover for its efforts to get the Polish media to adopt editorial policies that give it more support.
TVN could suffer the same fate as Polska Press, the country’s largest regional media network, which has not hesitated to fire critical journalists since its takeover by state-owned oil company PKN Orlen. The transformation of public service media into government propaganda bodies ended with a new round of arbitrary dismissals, as reported by RSF in February 2020.
The latest evidence of the alarming deterioration of press freedom in Poland is the ban on journalists covering near the border with Belarus, even to cover articles that clearly serve the public interest. The ban was imposed as part of the state of emergency in the border region declared by the president on September 2 and approved by the Sejm four days later due to an influx of migrants and Russia’s plans for major military exercises in the region.
Onet.pl news site reporter Bartlomiej Bublewicz and his cameraman managed to enter the border area last week but learned on their return that they were to be prosecuted for violating the state of emergency and filming near the border. After call On the authorities to drop the charges against the journalists, RSF met Bublewicz in Warsaw and expressed its support for him.
Since the PiS returned to power in 2015, Poland has dropped 46 places in RSF’s world press freedom rankings and is now ranked 64th out of 180 countries.