European Federation of Journalists

Poland: EFJ and IFJ condemn continued political interference in public broadcasting

Credits: Wojtek Radwanski / AFP.

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and the International Federations of Journalists (IFJ) condemn the repeated interference of political parties from all sides in the management of public broadcasting in Poland. On Saturday, Polish President Andrzej Duda, an ally of Poland’s former ruling populists, said he would veto state media subsidies proposed in a budget-related bill as part of a row over the government’s reform of state media. The veto will escalate a growing stand-off between Duda and the new pro-EU government of Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

The IFJ and EFJ call on political decision-makers to refrain from direct political intervention at TVP. Reforms to ensure the pluralism and independence of the state broadcaster, in order to transform it into a public television that serves Polish citizens and not political parties, must be carried out transparently and with respect for the editorial teams.

Duda had been criticised by some in the former ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party for not doing enough after Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s government moved to sack the management of state media earlier this week. The move prompted a sit-in by PiS lawmakers in the offices of the state broadcaster, which had become a government mouthpiece during eight years of PiS rule that ended with parliamentary elections in October.

The culture ministry had said in a statement that the chairmen and boards of the state-owned television, radio and news agency had been removed in a bid to restore the “impartiality” of public media. Shortly after the announcement, state news channel TVP’s regular broadcast was suspended, with only its logo being aired. The TVP Info website also went offline.

For years, the annual reports of the Media Pluralism Monitor have denounced the lack of political independence of Polish public broadcasting: the public service media governing bodies remain under strong political control. According to the latest MPM report, TVP remains Poles’ least trusted source, precisely because of its lack of political independence.

Since 2016, the public service media (PSM) have received growing amounts of “compensation for uncollected licence-fees” from the state budget, which has increased the political dependence of TVP. “The PSM financing model in Poland has also been increasingly perceived as an unfair and non-transparent mechanism that needs a necessary correction,” said the 2023 MPM report.

The latest annual report by the MPM’s academic experts is highly critical of Polish PSM: “The existing rules concerning PSM’s news performance are formulated in a very general way both in the 1992 Broadcasting Act and the PSM charters and do not contain practical requirements of quality, accurate and impartial reporting. Furthermore, the absence of monitoring and lack of PSM accountability contributes to the fact that PSM do not respect the remit rules particularly when pertaining to political reporting. In the last few years, political partisanship and bias of PSM has reached an unprecedented scale. There has not only been an unbalance in portraying political actors and various distortions, some TVP’s reports were creating ungrounded analogies that falsely politicised events or issues, while openly manipulating facts.”

“There is no doubt about the need to improve PSM appointment procedures and governance model so that it reflects a wide spectrum of social representation and is free from political influence from government and political parties in power,” said IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger. “But the new government must not repeat the mistakes of the previous government. These reforms must respect the rule of law and the independence of newsrooms.”

“We also call on the Polish authorities not to boycott or discriminate against TVP journalists, who are not responsible for the excesses of their managers,” added the EFJ General Secretary Ricardo Gutiérrez. “Our Polish affiliate SDP has reported a number of cases of TVP journalists being deliberately excluded from press conferences organised by the authorities. Such discrimination is unworthy of a government that respects press freedom. This behaviour must stop. We call on all political players in both the majority and the opposition to respect the law and the freedom of the media.”