Polish Law on Public Service Broadcasting Removes Guarantees of Independence

Update: 04 Jul 2017 State replied
Year 04 Jan 2016 Country Poland Category E. Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom Source of threat State Partner AEJ , Article 19 , CPJ , EFJ/IFJ , Index , RSF Alert level Level 2
04 Jan 2016 Poland E. Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom State AEJ , Article 19 , CPJ , EFJ/IFJ , Index , RSF Level 2

The law on Public Service Media governance which has been hurriedly adopted by the Polish parliament proposes the removal of guarantees for the independence of public service TV (TVP) and Radio (PR), in breach of Council of Europe norms and of the mandate given by the Polish constitution to the independent broadcasting authority (KRRiT) to uphold the broad public interest in broadcasting. The legislation gives a government minister exclusive powers to appoint and dismiss all members of the Supervisory and Management Boards of TVP and PR, making them wholly dependent on the goodwill and favour of the government The proposed arrangements represent a shift to direct government control over the strategic and editorial stance of the public broadcasters which is wholly unacceptable in a genuine democracy. The fundamental and drastic changes proposed were put before parliament to be voted on without the necessary inclusive public debate and in spite of strong objections by the KRRiT and many concerned bodies in Poland and abroad. The Polish government's plans directly contradict the commitments made by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in its 2012 Declaration on Public Service Media Governance; that Declaration stated that PSM must remain independent of political or economic interference, and should be accountable and transparent as they have the obligation to serve the public in all its diversity. The organisations submitting this Alert call on the Polish ruling party to abandon the proposed legislation at once.

Updates

04 Jul 2017 : On 7 July 2016, the new “Act on the National Media Council" entered into force, according to which two out of five members of the Council are designated by the opposition parties while the remaining three are appointed by the present authorities. That system of senior management appointments to the public broadcaster by the new National Media Council has been criticised by some journalists’ organisations as being done, in effect, under the political and economic control of the government authorities, in contravention of the Council of Europe’s standards of independence of public service media. According to the Polish Towarzystwo Dziennikarskie (Society of Journalists), as of 4 July 2017, 228 journalists have lost their jobs - either by being dismissed or by resigning - as a result of management changes in the public radio and TV since the beginning of 2016.
07 Jan 2016 : On the 7 January 2016, the President of Poland, Andrzej Duda, signed the act on public service media governance into a law.

State replies

Follow-ups

15 Jun 2016 : Addressing the reform of public service media which is currently underway, the Commissioner urged the Polish authorities to introduce safeguards to guarantee the independence of public service media from political influence.
15 Jun 2016 : The Secretary General welcomes the constructive dialogue with the Polish authorities on the public media legislation.
07 Jun 2016 : Expert dialogue between the Polish Government and the Council of Europe : conclusions published
16 Feb 2016 : Upon return of his visit to Poland, Coe Commissioner for Human rights expresses concerns at the adoption in December 2015 of transitional legislation in the field of public service media, pending the adoption of a wider reform in this area, expected before the summer 2016.
14 Jan 2016 : CoE Secretary General mentions changes to the Polish Radio and Television Broadcasting Act in his address to the Committee of Ministers
06 Jan 2016 : OSCE Media Freedom Representative urges Poland’s government to withdraw proposed changes to the selection of management in public service broadcasters
05 Jan 2016 : Coe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland expresses his particular concern with regard to the new Polish law on public service broadcasting and the impact it may have on the integrity and independence of public service media.
05 Jan 2016 : Call by the CoE Commissioner for Human Rights on Polish President not to sign new Media Law

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