Poland Government and Media
Government Type: Unitary semi-presidential constitutional republic
Head of State: Andrzej Duda backed by the right-wing nationalist Law and Justice party (PiS)
Head of Government: Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki
Political Party: Law and Justice party (Polish abbreviation PiS)
Political Position: Right-Wing Populist Nationalist
World Press Freedom Rank: Poland 62 /180
In 2020, Reporters Without Borders ranked Poland 62/180 in their Press Freedom Index. The RSF points out that freedom is lessening through “the Government’s growing tendency to criminalize defamation” and “how courts using article 212 under which journalists can be prisoned for defamation.” Further, The criminal code specifies that speech which “offends” religious sentiment is subject to a fine, which is typically 5,000 zloty ($1,400), or up to two years in prison for violations. Finally, RSF warns that “Poland is about to censor privately-owned media, like its Hungarian ally.”
Under Article 212 of the Polish Criminal Code “defamation of a person, group of people, institution, legal person or business entity is punishable by a fine or the restriction of freedom. However, committing defamation using mass media is punishable by a fine, restriction of freedom or imprisonment for up to one year.” In 2019 The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights “negatively assesses the toughening of the penal code passed by the Sejm (Polish parliament) on 16 May 2019” stating “THE CHR IS ALSO OPPOSED TO THE NEW DEFAMATION LAWS, WHICH COULD RESTRICT FREEDOM OF SPEECH.”
Government Influence on Media: Although international organizations, such as Freedom House and Reporters Without Borders, states, overall the press is free and free speech is protected under the Polish Constitution, they also express concern because there have been numerous measures taken by the Law and Justice (PiS) party to increase its political influence over state institutions such as the Public Service Media. These measures threaten the progress of democracy in Poland. Please find Poland’s National Broadcasting Council (KRRiT) press release in response to Poland’s fall in the rankings here.
The media landscape in Poland is comprised of mainly state-owned and funded public radio and television broadcasters, as well as private media outlets owned by Agora Spółka Akcyjna (Agora SA) (Polish media company), Gremi Media SA (Poland-based company) as well as international media companies such as German media companies Axel Springer Ringier, Hubert Burda Media, and Bauer Media Group. The media, printed press, radio, and TV are all regulated by a Polish Press Law that was established in 1984. Over the years it has been modified with drastic modifications occurring since 2015, under the influence of the right-wing populist Law and Justice party (PiS). In 2015, the Law and Justice Party (PiS) supported candidate, Andrzej Duda who won the presidency, and with PiS gaining the majority in parliament. Since Duda’s election, the PiS’s main focus is establishing political control over the judiciary by changing the rules for Poland’s constitutional court as a means to control the media, specifically public broadcasting.
In 2016, The Polish President, Andrzej Duda, signed controversial laws that enabled the government to appoint the heads of public TV and radio. In Poland, Telewizja Polska S.A. (TVP) is the largest TV network and dominates the market, together with privately owned TVN and Polsat. TVP is owned by the government and after the signed law, the western press voiced concern that public broadcasting in Poland became “the mouthpiece of the government”. The National Broadcasting Council (KRRiT) is the Polish broadcasting regulator, which issues radio and television broadcast licenses, ensures compliance with the law by public broadcasters, and indirectly controls state-owned media. According to Freedom House, “The new measure terminated the KRRiT’s board members and temporarily shifted its responsibilities for management and appointment of public media personnel to the treasury minister.” Another example of government pressure occurred with Gazeta Wyborcza which is quite popular and according to an NYT article “Bartosz Wielinski, the paper’s foreign editor, said that the government has applied pressure in a number of ways, including cutting off advertising from state-controlled businesses.”
In conclusion, it is fair to say that polish media once under the influence of the Communist parties is now in the process of getting under the complete control of the nationalist, populist right-wing Law and Justice Party. Therefore, the Government is having a strong influence on media, and press freedom is being eroded.
|Top 5 Poland Media Sources by Web Rank|