First Vice-President of the Commission Frans Timmermans announced this morning that a preliminary assessment of the Polish public service broadcasters' situation will be carried out within the EU Rule of Law Framework. In the following weeks, the European Commission will enter into a dialogue with the Polish government. The International and European Federation of Journalists have welcomed the action, after participating in a protest in solidarity with Polish colleagues in front of the country's embassy today in Brussels.
The signature of a restrictive media law by the president of Poland Andrzej Duda last 7 January has been widely criticized in Europe as it infringes "common European values", according to the EU Commissioner Günther Oettinger.
Journalists, broadcasters and media freedom organisations, including the IFJ and EFJ, have gathered early this morning in front of the Polish Embassy in Brussels protesting against new attempts by the Polish government to control the media while the European Commission was discussing possible action against Poland.
"What is going on in Poland is a scandal, as citizens will enjoy a completely muzzeled public service which would work as a propaganda office," said Anthony Bellanger, IFJ General Secretary. "We wish to recall that the freedom to report and media independence are two essential pillars of democracy. In Europe we are observing a step backward, which is really worrying for the EFJ and for us." Bellanger also compared the new move of the Polish government to similar attacks against public service media in Uganda and Burundi.
The EFJ welcomed the first step taken by the Commission saying, “The move is the first of its kind. This will hopefully send a strong message to Poland that being a member of the EU requires the respect of the Rule of Law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights.” Ricardo Gutierrez, EFJ General Secretary, added that, “What’s happening in Poland is not only a Polish issue, it’s also a European issue as we must maintain a pluralistic and independent media in Europe.”
Luk Vandenhoeck (ACOD) said that, “our democratic principles are too important to be left over without resistance. It’s not because a party had a wrong idea in his electoral programme that this idea become true after the elections. And it’s not because previous government did a wrong thing in the past that it can be justified to do the similar wrong step today.”
The protest was launched by the ACOD (Flemish Belgium union of media workers), ACV Transcom VRT, VVJ-AJP (Belgian associations of professional journalists, IFJ-EFJ affiliates in Belgium).
It was supported by the International and European Federation of Journalists, (IFJ) and (EFJ), the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), Reporter without Borders (RSF) and the European Center for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF).
For more information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 22 16
The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 139 countries
The EFJ represents 320,000 journalists in 41 countries in Europe