English Section

Storm over public media II: the opposition's perspective

26.12.2023 17:10
The opposition's view of the government's "reclaiming" of public media is that it is a violation of the independence of a free press recalling the darkest days of communist Poland.  
Protests following the dismissal of the TVP board. The slogans compare the situation to communism and Belarus.
Protests following the dismissal of the TVP board. The slogans compare the situation to communism and Belarus. Photo: PAP/Kalbar

The National Media Council 

A considerable proportion of the current opposition's arguments are emotional insults comparing the new government to communists or Belarus. The most common legal argument, however, is based on the conviction that the National Media Council (Rada Mediów Narodowych - RMN), created in 2016 on the basis of the Act of the same name, is the legitimate body to nominate and dismiss public media boards - and not the Minister of Culture or other government leaders. 

In the words of Patryk Jaki, former Deputy Justice Minister in the Law and Justice coalition:

"To understand what is happening, you need to understand:

- that the basis for the defence of TVP is the Act on the National Media Council (which is still in effect), the Constitution and the prerogatives of the National Broadcasting Board and the pre-emptive decisions of the Constitutional Tribunal

- the basis for Tusk's attack against TVP is a resolution and "political will”.

So, the issue at stake is not whether someone likes the public media or not, but whether a resolution can change an act and whether "political will" is more important than the Constitution which clearly states what the authority of the Constitutional Tribunal's decisions is.

Those who accept Tusk's imposed solutions are at the same time accepting the dissolution of the current political system.

Anyone working in TVP due to the "will of Sienkiewicz" [Current Minister of Culture] is a "stand-in" and should be so called." 

The 2016 Act from Law and Justice provides that the newly-created National Media Council is the proper body to nominate and dismiss boards of the national media organisations - TVP, Polish Radio and PAP. However, there was, in 2016 and still is today another body, a constitutional body, the National Broadcasting Council (Polish: KRRiT) whose scope of responsibility also includes the nomination of state media boards. However, in 2016, the Broadcasting Council was still dominated by the previous government's nominees and so the Law and Justice coalition passed the 2016 Act in attempt to bypass, in effect, the Constitution.

The Constitutional Tribunal in 2016 rejected the Act on the National Media Council, stating that the Act seeks to exclude the existing National Broadcasting Council and is therefore unconstitutional.  

The bodies that Jaki refers to are all bodies controlled by the previous coalition to which Jaki belongs. 

The President's Mediation?  

At least in principle a more moderate position is that of President Andrzej Duda who has recently sought to distance himself from the position of a pure Law and Justice advocate. He has offered to hold talks with the government about the form a new Media Act should take.

He had also conceded in the past that the current regulation of state media is inadequate - not only in the face of the current crisis. If the Tusk-led government took Duda at his word, they would be able to prepare a Media Bill that the President potentially would not veto. However, as President he confirmed several of the laws that led to the current crisis, including the aforementioned Act, rejected by the Constitutional Tribunal. Presumably this road would also require compromises towards Law and Justice's PR needs. 

Developing a Media Bill together with the President's Office would certainly avoid many of the current legal issues but may prove politically impossible. 

Sources: The Commissioner for Human Rights (website), X, Imponderabilia