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Poland initiates liquidation of state media amid funding suspension

27.12.2023 18:30
Poland’s Culture Minister Bartłomiej Sienkiewicz announced the liquidation of the country's major state-owned media entities following President Andrzej Duda's decision to suspend funding for public media.
Minister of Culture Bartłomiej Sienkiewicz.
Minister of Culture Bartłomiej Sienkiewicz. Photo: PAP/Leszek Szymański

This move includes the liquidation of Telewizja Polska SA (TVP), Polskie Radio SA, and Polska Agencja Prasowa SA (PAP).

Sienkiewicz, in a statement, explained that this drastic step is intended to ensure the continued operation of these companies, facilitate necessary restructuring, and prevent employee layoffs due to the funding suspension.

"The state of liquidation may be withdrawn at any time by the owner," highlighted the minister's message.

Duda, on the other hand, slammed the new government's actions, which included swift dismissal of the CEOs of these state media entities and the appointment of new boards, describing them as a blatant breach of the constitution. He pointed out that the legal regulations for managing these media entities were bypassed, leading to a situation he dubbed "anarchy".

The new decisions have been met with significant opposition. The opposition conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, which has been in power from 2015 to 2023, strongly opposed these changes, staging protests and occupying media buildings.

The move marks a critical juncture in the nation's ongoing struggle for media impartiality. Under the previous rule of the Law and Justice party, state media, especially TVP's main evening news and TVP Info, were accused of becoming propagandistic platforms supporting PiS's agenda.

The new coalition government, led by pro-EU Prime Minister Donald Tusk, had pledged to transform state media into a source of "reliable information," a move seen as an effort to reverse the trend of media being used as a political tool.

The law mandates that state media maintain neutrality and not favor any particular political party, but, in practice, these outlets have often leaned towards the government in power. PiS's control over TVP was notably more pronounced than previous governments, marked by significant changes in Poland's media law and the establishment of a rival media regulator. These actions enabled PiS to replace management boards and fill public media with ‘politically correct’ journalists.

Alongside these media changes, PiS also sought greater control over the judiciary, the civil service, and state-controlled companies, including the security services. A notable aspect of their media strategy was the "repolonisation" of the Polish media landscape, exemplified by the state-controlled energy company Orlen's acquisition of Polska Press, the largest regional media outlet previously owned by German interests. This acquisition brought numerous newspapers and websites under political influence.

PiS's media policies were not without international repercussions. Its attempts to limit foreign media ownership, particularly targeting US-owned TVN, drew protests from Washington, eventually leading to President Duda vetoing the bill.

The impact of these policies on media freedom in Poland was significant, with many private outlets becoming increasingly biting against the then-ruling party’s actions and further polarizing the whole political landscape.

Source: PAP, Reuters