European Federation of Journalists

The Polish media law is signed: our letter to EU Commissioner Oettinger

Poland’s president Andrzej Duda has signed today a controversial state media law.

Prior to the next weekly meeting by the college of Commissioners on 13 January, 2016 in which the European Commissioners will discuss both the developments of the Constitutional Court and the media law in Poland, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) has sent the following letter to Commissioner Günther Oettinger.

Commissioner Günther Oettinger, responsible for the digital economy and society, said on Sunday Poland should be put under the EU’s rule of law supervision, a three-step procedure consisting of a Commission assessment, a Commission recommendation and a follow- up to the Commission recommendation. The rule of law supervision framework was adopted in 2014 to deal with “systemic threats” to EU values.

The EU values are defined in Article 2 TEU: “The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail.


EFJ Letter to European Commissioner Günther Oettinger on Polish media law

Brussels, 7 January 2016

Dear Mr Oettinger,

First of all, all the best for a certainly challenging but also successful 2016!

We write to you on behalf of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Europe’s largest journalists’ organisation representing about 320,000 journalists on 41 EU countries including Poland.
We welcome your clear position with regard to the media law on public service broadcasting, recently adopted by the Polish parliament, which caused a lot of outcry among Europe’s journalists’ and media groups in these last days. According to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, you proposed to put Poland on notice for infringing on European fundamental rights as enshrined in the European Charter of Fundamental Rights by passing legislation giving the government control of the public service media. We absolutely agree with you that “A director [of public radio or television] cannot be dismissed without cause. It would be arbitrary.”

The measures taken by the Polish government are contradictory to media pluralism and independence of public service broadcasting, and to democracy in Poland. They would be in clear contradiction to EU fundamental values.

We recall the Audiovisual Media Services Directive and one of its goals being media pluralism, and the communication on the application of state aid rules to public service broadcasting stressing the importance of safeguards for the independence of broadcasting.

The EFJ in a joint statement with the European Broadcasting Union, the Association of European Journalists and Reporters Without Borders, Committee to Protect Journalists and Index on Censorship have expressed on 30 December their outrage by the proposed bill, hastily introduced by the majority party in Poland for immediate adoption, without any consultation, abolishing the existing safeguards for pluralism and independence of public service media governance in Poland, see here.

The EFJ together with the International Federation of Journalists, the Association of European Journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists and Index on Censorship wrote in their complaint to the Council of Europe Platform to Promote the Protection of Journalism and the Safety of Journalists pointing out that 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, in which it called on member states to strengthen editorial and operational independence of public broadcasters and other public service media.

Thank you Mr. Commissioner for taking these points into consideration when discussing the rule of law in Poland and for defending media freedom and media pluralism as core European values in the debate starting on 13 January.

With kind regards,
Mogens Blicher Bjerregård
EFJ President


Photo Credit : AFP