Journalists Warn of Crisis Of Confidence Over Media Policy in Poland

Global journalists today called for the Polish authorities to withdraw actions against the majority owners of a leading daily newspaper Rzeczpospolita, which they claim is the battle ground in a struggle between state and private interests for editorial control.

The International Federation of Journalists and the European Federation of Journalists has also warned the Polish authorities that they face a serious confrontation with media professionals over two draft laws covering broadcasting and journalists rights.

"There is a growing crisis of confidence of media policy in Poland," said Aidan White, IFJ and EFJ General Secretary, "the Rzeczpospolita case reflects widespread concern that the government is trying to exercise undue influence on media."

The IFJ is joining other international media professional groups at a meeting in Warsaw tomorrow to express solidarity with journalists and management at the daily which is 51 per cent owned by the Norwegian media company Orkla with a further 49 per cent held by a state-holding company PPW. Three members of the board have had their passports confiscated amidst unsubstantiated claims of violations of fiscal law.

"This case raises a profound fear that the Polish government is engaged in a struggle for control of a leading daily while at the same time drafting new and controversial laws that may limit media freedom and journalistic independence," said Aidan White.

Journalists are particularly concerned about the contents of a draft law on the Profession of Journalist, which they say is potentially dangerous for press freedom. "We wonder whether such a law should exist at all," says the IFJ. Another law covering broadcasting, which is now before Parliament, does not create a proper balance between private and public interests.

"There is a serious perception of crisis in media regulation in Poland and this must be addressed now," says the IFJ "The authorities can make a start by withdrawing the actions against the management of Rzeczpospolita."