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Journalists Launch Case Against Poland Over Media Manipulation

© REUTERS / Kacper PempelJournalists take Poland to Court
Journalists take Poland to Court - Sputnik International
A group of international journalists has launched a challenge at the Council of Europe over a new law - passed hurriedly before Christmas by the new Warsaw administration - that gives it the power to directly appoint the heads of public broadcasters.

A Polish national flag waves above the Zamkowy Square in Warsaw, Poland, - Sputnik International
Poland on EU Collision Course Over New Media Reforms
The complaint — signed by the Association of European Journalists (AEJ) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and others — says that the media law will threaten the independence of the media.

In a letter to the Council of Europe Platform to Promote the Protection of Journalism and the Safety of Journalists, the journalists say: "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.

"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 favor 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 letter states.

The journalists say 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. They say 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.

Media Manipulation

In a further letter to the Polish Government, the AEJ said: "The AEJ is deeply concerned that that the proposed reforms, if implemented, would effectively bring public service television and radio under the direct control of the government, involve the dismissal of respected journalists for political reasons, and lead to a systematic editorial bias in the content of PBS broadcasts in favor of the present government."

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has also written to the President of the Republic of Poland, Andrzej Duda, and to Members of the Polish Senate expressing its dismay at the media bill which would immediately "oust the supervisory and management bodies of TVP and Polish Radio and transfer the power of nomination and dismissal of their Board Members to a government minister."

"To preserve the integrity and independence of public service media as a symbol of a free and democratic country, we ask you in the strongest possible terms not to sign this measure into law, and certainly not without having first undertaken a careful analysis of its compatibility with the Polish constitution and the freedom and pluralism of the media, guaranteed by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights," said Ingrid Deltenre, EBU Director General, in her letter.

​"The haste with which this new law has been rushed through Parliament strikes a discordant note about Poland and its respect for the rule of law and the democratic process."

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