Poland: independence of public service media

In this joint report, ARTICLE 19 and the Polish Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (HFHR) analyse concerns regarding the independence of public service media (PSM) in Poland.

Since December 2015, the Polish Government has initiated a series of actions aimed at placing public service media broadcasters under its close control. A provisional law of December 2015 gave the Ministry of State Treasury the power to appoint and dismiss PSM’s senior management and boards of directors. In June 2016, another law transferred these competences to a new regulatory institution, the National Media Council.  Throughout 2016, public radio and television personnel have been under considerable pressure to refrain from criticising the evolution of the governance and operation of the PSM.

This report, published one year after these legislative changes, finds that the freedom, independence and pluralism of the media are under severe threat in Poland.

ARTICLE 19 and the HFHR offer recommendations aiming at bringing the legislation in conformity with international standards, which will support the development and reinforcement of a strong, independent media landscape. We also invite all international organisations to seize any opportunity to remind the Polish Government of its duties under international and European standards on freedom of expression, and to exert appropriate pressure on the Government for the implementation of our recommendations.

Key recommendations:

  • The Law of 22 June 2016 on the National Media Council should be abolished;
  • The Polish Government should implement the decision of the Constitutional Court of 13 December 2016 by swiftly adopting appropriate legislative changes to restore the full competences of the National Broadcasting Council – the regulatory authority recognised by the Constitution;
  • The National Broadcasting Council should be able to appoint without delay new management and boards of directors to PSM in accordance with international standards;
  • The Sejm – the lower chamber of the Polish Parliament – should cease any attempts to limit the work of the media, particularly by restricting access of journalists to governmental institutions, including Parliament;
  • The Polish Government should ensure that the practice of politically-motivated dismissal of journalists and other staff in public service media broadcasters is ended immediately;
  • The Polish Government should seize the opportunity of the general review of laws on PSM and the media more broadly to fully implement international standards on media freedom and independence. It should:
    • Reinforce the editorial independence and the financial sustainability of public service media broadcasters;
    • Reinforce the independence of the independent regulator for audiovisual media in accordance with international standards on freedom of expression;
    • Ensure full conformity of national law with international standards on freedom of expression, including the protection and promotion of pluralism and diversity;
  • The Polish Government must also ensure that the general review of laws on PSM and the media more broadly is carried out in a transparent and consultative manner that will allow all stakeholders to give their views.

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