Polish Law on Public Service Broadcasting Removes Guarantees of Independence

Several organisations defending press freedom, including the IFJ and the EFJ, have alerted the Council of Europe about alarming moves in Poland to curb free press. The organisations report that the Polish 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 call on the Polish ruling party to abandon the proposed legislation at once. Update: On 5 January, Nils Muiznieks, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe,  asked the President of Poland not to sign the new media law and to uphold independence of public service TV and radio. More on Council of Europe Platform to promote the protection of journalism and the safety of journalists.