Top Polish Broadcasting Bosses Resign Over Media Gag Law

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The directors of four of Poland’s state television channels have resigned due to a new law which gives the government control over state media, Polish newspapers reported on Saturday.

A Polish national flag waves above the Zamkowy Square in Warsaw, Poland, - Sputnik International
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Four top Polish broadcasting bosses have resigned over the passing of a new law which increases government control over state media, Poland’s Gazeta Wyborcza reported on Friday.

“This is the reaction of TV bosses to the adoption by the Senate on Thursday of PiS’ amendment to the media law,” the newspaper reported.

The directors of four channels from Poland’s state Telewizja Polska (TVP) network, and TVP’s human resources director, announced their resignations on Friday after the law was approved by the Polish Sejm (parliament) on Thursday. It gives Poland’s national-conservative Law and Justice party (PiS) government the right to appoint and dismiss the supervisory boards and management of public television and radio stations.

“Under the new amendment, the government takes complete control of the media. Now the treasury minister will appoint the new government of TVP and Polish Radio, without competition and without tenure. He can also dismiss the new chairmen,” wrote Gazeta Wyborcza.

​‘TVP directors resigned in connection with the amendment of the media law,’ reported the Polish press.

The new media law is now set to be signed into law by Polish President Andrzej Duda; on January 1 the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) wrote to Duda asking him not to sign it so as to “preserve the integrity and independence of the public media as a symbol of a free and democratic country.”

 “This is an attack on an institution that will no longer be independent as soon as these measures take effect,” the EBU advised, according to the Frankfurter Allgemeiner Zeitung (FAZ).

“We are dismayed that such a law can be adopted.”

The EBU’s letter comes after two interventions by the Vice-President of the EU Commission, Frans Timmermans, warning Warsaw that its changes to Poland’s media law, and constitutional court, contravene EU law.

“The freedom and pluralism of the media are crucial to a pluralistic society in a member state that respects the common values on which the Union is based,” Timmermans wrote in a letter to the Polish government on Wednesday, before the amendment to the media law was passed. He cited the EU Treaty protocol on the “need to preserve media pluralism.”

Polish Army soldiers check their tank after the NATO Noble Jump exercise on a training range near Swietoszow Zagan, Poland, Thursday, June 18, 2015 - Sputnik International
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Timmermans previously wrote to Poland’s Foreign and Justice Ministers on December 23 to complain about amendments to Poland’s constitutional court law, which removed a paragraph guaranteeing the independence of the court. The President signed the law into force on December 28.

The new law requires 13 of the 15 judges to be present, and the agreement of two-thirds of them, in order to reach a decision. Previously, a simple majority of nine judges was required. The more difficult conditions for a decision make it harder for the court to reach agreement, and act as a check on the government. 

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