Polish president urged not to sign controversial media law
The Council of Europe (CoE) has passed by the country’s parliament on the grounds that it threatens press freedom.
The new media law allows the government to appoint and dismiss the executives in charge of public TV and radio broadcasters.
Now the CoE’s secretary general, Thorbjørn Jagland, has written to President Andrzej Dudato request that he consults experts on press freedom instead of signing the new act into law.
Jagland is supported by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in (OSCE). Its representative on media freedom, Dunja Mijatović, has warned that the law “will endanger the basic conditions of independence, objectivity and impartiality of public service broadcasters.”
Similar concerns have been , including the International Federation of Journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, Index on Censorship and Article 19.
They believe Poland’s ultra conservative government, led by Jarosław Kaczyński’s Law and Justice party (PiS), is eager to stifle what it regards as unfair criticism. The legislation would enable it to exercise control over public broadcasters.
They fear PiS will fire many executives at the country’s public television and radio companies and appoint replacements of their own choice.
The introduction of the media law .
According to the press freedom organisations, the law would be “wholly unacceptable in a genuine democracy” and was “put before parliament to be voted on without the necessary inclusive public debate.”
They say that media “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.”
A Reporters Without Borders spokeswoman, said: “This new law, giving the government full powers to appoint and dismiss the heads of the public broadcast media, constitutes a flagrant violation of media freedom and pluralism.”
The European Commission is also concerned. Its vice-president, Frans Timmermans, said: “Freedom and pluralism of the media are crucial...
“We urge the to be firm. Respect for media freedom and pluralism are among the requirements for admission to the union. The EU cannot demand from membership candidates what it does not demand from its own members. Its credibility is at stake.”
The commission’s president, Jean-Claude Juncker, has scheduled a debate on the rule of law in when the commission meets next week, on 13 January.