Joel Simon, head of the American Journalists’ Defense Committee, spoke about the lex anti-TVN, the situation of the media in Poland and the threats to journalism in general. In an interview with TVN’s “Fakt” correspondent, Marcin Wrona, he said that some countries “use their apparatus to suppress free press”. – There are also subtler and more sophisticated throttling mechanisms. For example, what is happening in Poland today, he said.
The head of the American Journalists Defense Committee, Joel Simon, spoke in an interview with the TVN correspondent, Marcin Wrona, about the greatest threats to journalism in the world and where, in his opinion, they occur.
– This is an unprecedented use of the state’s power in the fight against journalists and independent press agencies – he assessed. It is happening “in different places around the world”, he added. – Let’s just look at Myanmar. Since the coup six months ago, dozens of journalists have been persecuted in a systemic attempt to stifle independent information, he pointed out.
– And what is happening in Belarus? There, the government is using security forces to physically attack, to arrest and persecute independent journalists, and has also committed an attack of state terrorism, hijacking a plane with a critic of the regime Raman Pratasiewicz he continued. He pointed out that “these are just two examples, but there are many more, all over the world.” “The most shocking thing about all of this is the use of all the tools of the state apparatus against journalists and the independent media,” added Simon.
Simon: Poland was both a leader of changes in the period of press freedom and in shaping the climate of repression
He also spoke about the situation of journalists and the media in the past and today. He recalled that “the fall of the Iron Curtain, the demolition of the Berlin Wall was like an explosion of free media”. – Poland was one of the flagship examples of this transformation. It took place in Eastern Europe, Latin America or Asia, it was an extremely interesting period – said the head of the American Defense Committee of Journalists.
He also noted that “the world looks a bit different today”. – We have non-state actors, criminal organizations, various groups that attack and kill journalists, states use their apparatus to suppress the free press. There are also subtler and more sophisticated throttling mechanisms. For example, what is happening in Poland today – he said.
In his opinion, “it is interesting that Poland was both a leader of changes in the period of press freedom in the late 1990s and in shaping the climate of repression against the press, which is currently taking place in various parts of the globe”.
The situation of the media in Poland. Simon: PiS’s strategy is based on the marginalization of independent media
Joel Simon also spoke about the situation of the media in Poland. As he assessed, “the long-term strategy of the Polish government, the strategy of the ruling PiS party, is based on the marginalization, weakening, isolation and erosion of independent media in Poland and they are doing it quite well”.
– They use non-obvious means, lawsuits, taxes, repolonization rhetoric and attacks against foreign owners. And the conclusion is one: the government in Poland is threatened by independent journalism and independent media, it understands the consequences of taking direct steps against the media, so it is looking for alternative strategies. The goal, however, remains the same: to limit the role of independent media, he commented.
Joel Simon on lex anti-TVN
Simon also commented on the draft amendment to the Broadcasting Act proposed by PiS, known as the lex anti-TVN. In the opinion of commentators, this project threatens TVN’s independence.
As the head of the American Journalists Defense Committee said, “we need to look at the activities of the government in Poland and the Law and Justice party in the context”. – If we look at some of their arguments in absolute isolation, they seem quite logical. But if we look at the history of their actions, systematic marginalization, persecution and strangling of independent media, and the fact that the law has been in place for many years and has never bothered, we must conclude that this is not an attempt to enforce any real government prerogatives, he assessed.
According to Simon, “this is an attempt to weaken and potentially eliminate the media platform that criticizes the government, which makes the government feel threatened.” – And any government that is threatened by independent media, independent information is weak by definition. It is very disturbing that such arguments are raised at such a moment and in such a context – he added.
The case of lex TVN and the license for TVN24
On July 7, a group of Law and Justice deputies submitted to the Sejm a draft amendment to the Broadcasting Act. “The will of the legislator is that companies based in Poland cannot be controlled by entities outside the European Economic Area” – it was written in the justification. Commentators agree that the changes are aimed at TVN’s independence. TVN24 is still waiting for the National Broadcasting Council to extend its license, which expires on September 26. An application for its extension was submitted in February 2020. KRRiT claims that the problem lies in the “ownership situation” of the TVN group.
The station’s management wrote in a statement that in 2015 the National Broadcasting Council accepted the entry of American capital into TVN. Since 2016 – under the same ownership conditions – KRRiT has already issued licenses for TVN24 BiS, TTV and TVN International West. On the license for TVN24 took place On July 22, two votes at the National Broadcasting Council. However, no decisions were made.
Parliamentary committee on culture and media On July 27, it adopted a draft amendment to the media law with amendments and sent it for further work.
TVN is owned by Discovery through its subsidiary Polish Television Holding BV in the Netherlands, and thus belonging to the European Economic Area.
Main photo source: TVN24