Polish minister defends controversial new media law

Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski defended his country's controversial new media law in a newspaper interview published Monday, even as campaign groups criticized the conservative government for seeking more control over broadcasters.

The new law defines the public broadcasters TVP and Polish Radio as "national cultural institutes" and gives the government power to appoint new executives. The mandate of the current directors is to expire with immediate effect.

The legislation has been passed by both houses of parliament, but still requires the signature of Polish President Andrzej Duda to take effect.

"We merely want to heal our state of some diseases," Waszczykowski told German daily Bild, adding that the media had pursued a left-wing agenda, promoting a "mix of cultures and races, a world of cyclists and vegetarians that ... fight every form of religion."

"That has nothing to do any more with traditional, Polish values," he added.

"At present, the media are reporting extremely one-sidedly against our government," Waszczykowski told Bild.

Four media freedom organizations lodged a complaint on Monday over the public service broadcasting law with the Council of Europe, the continent's human rights watchdog, which has 48 members, including the European Union.

The draft legislation "proposes the removal of guarantees for the independence of public service TV and radio," in breach of Council of Europe norms," the complaint says.

It is undersigned by the Association of European Journalists, the International Federation of Journalists, the European Federation of Journalists and the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The European Broadcasting Union has also lambasted the planned law, urging the Polish authorities to "resist any temptation to strengthen political control over the media."

The EU's executive is due to discuss the situation in Poland at its next top-level meeting of commissioners on January 13.

The European Commission has a responsibility "for guaranteeing the rule of law as a fundamental value" of the bloc, said spokesman Margaritis Schinas.

In an initial step, the commission can enter into dialogue with Warsaw under a new mechanism aimed at preventing threats to the rule of law in the EU, introduced in 2014. Poland could ultimately face a suspension of voting rights in the 28-country bloc.

European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans wrote to Warsaw last week requesting information on the new media law. It follows an earlier letter raising concerns about reforms to the constitutional court.

EU Digital Economy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said Sunday that there were reasons to place Warsaw "under supervision," in comments to the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

The bloc's justice commissioner, Vera Jourova, expressed "concern" over the developments in Poland, in quotes carried by the German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

But Waszczykowski said that a "false image" of Poland was being created, and lashed out at Oettinger's remarks. "This is not how to conduct politics," he told Polish broadcaster TVN24 on Monday.

Meanwhile, four of TVP's programme directors have chosen to step down, Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper reported Saturday.

Last update: Fri, 24/06/2016 - 08:49

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