Resignations over divisive Polish media law

The EU has said that a controversial new Polish media law, whose introduction led to the protest resignation of top TVP directors over the weekend, could trigger action under its ‘rule of law’ mechanism.

Poland’s recently-elected conservative government is bringing media law changes that allow it to make key appointments and remove executives at Polish pubcaster TVP and other organisations.

According to Polish news website Dziennik TVP1 boss Piotr Radziszewski, TVP2’s Jerzy Kapuscinski, TVP Kultura’s Katarzyna Janowska and Television Information Agency Tomasz Sygut all resigned in protest on Saturday.

In an interview with German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, EU digital economy commissioner Gunther Oettinger said that there was a case to place Warsaw under EU supervision and that he would raise the matter at the next EC meeting on January 13.

The rule of law mechanism provides for a structured dialogue with a member state that introduces a measure that presents a systemic threat to EU values. If the member state does not respond, the EC can initiate proceedings that could lead to the country losing voting rights, something that would be unprecedented.

The move follows the introduction of a media law by Poland’s new Law and Justice party government that would allow it to replace the management of public radio and TV stations without notice or consultation.

Oettinger said that measure threatened the independence of public broadcaster TVP and Polish Radio.

Last week the EBU, which represents European public broadcasters, wrote to the Polish president, Andrzej Duda and members of the Polish Sentate condemning the bill, which is designed to oust the supervisory and management boards of TVP and Polish Radio and transfer the power to nominate and dismiss members to the prime 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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