Since the victory that re-elected President Andrzej Duda, politicians from the ruling camp in Poland have made it clear that the transformation of private media is one of their priorities for the next three years of government, the British daily Financial Times wrote on Sunday. According to the Washington Post, the government’s campaign against independent media may “devastate what is left of Polish democracy.” Foreign media # PisząoPolsce.
The British economic daily “Financial Times” wrote about the situation of the Polish media market on Sunday. He notes that the United Right camp draws attention to the large share of foreign capital in Polish media and the concentration of the industry in the hands of several major players. On this occasion, he recalls the words of the President of Law and Justice, Jarosław Kaczyński, who, after Andrzej Duda’s victory in the presidential election, emphasized that “media in Poland should be Polish”.
The British daily notes that already during the first term of PiS government – in 2005-2007 – representatives of this party raised the issue of “repolonization” of the media and the introduction of restrictions on the market share of Polish companies that could become the property of foreign conglomerates. “From the moment of re-election by Andrzej Duda, they emphasize the need to ‘distract’ or impose market share limits for individual entities,” writes the Financial Times.
“Critics of PiS, however, point out that with a few exceptions – such as regional media – the media in Poland is not very concentrated. They perceive these plans rather as an attempt to suppress independent journalism” – noted the daily. He draws attention to the political influence of the ruling camp in the Polish state media and underlines the fears of some that the discussion on the reform of the media may be a prelude to their dependence on power, as happened in Victor Orban’s Hungary.
“Distraction is the whole program”
The Financial Times points out that despite the declarations, no specific legislative proposal has emerged from the ruling politicians. “One of the problems is that such legislation would be difficult to reconcile with EU law. Another problem is the position of the US – PiS’s most important ally – which made it clear that it would oppose changes that could harm American interests,” writes the daily. As an example, he cites the TVN group belonging to the American Discovery group.
The British newspaper emphasizes that despite the lack of “deconcentration” regulations, the owners and management of Polish media are concerned that the Law and Justice may find other methods of influencing independent journalism. It mentions, inter alia, the possibility of withholding revenues from state advertising or changes to the currently binding legislation on the media market.
“The deconcentration is the entire program. It does not necessarily have to be based on a single act. It is about concentration of the media in the hands of PiS, which can be achieved in many ways” – writes “FT”, quoting the director of one of the Polish media. As he adds, a more likely strategy for the rulers may be “fragmentary distraction on many fronts to make it difficult for independent media to develop or even survive.”
The British daily also mentions the use of state-owned companies to purchase independent media as one of the other possibilities. As an example, he gives recent information about PKN Orlen conducting talks with Verlagsgruppe Passau (VGP) on the purchase of its Polish branch, Polska Press – the publisher of several regional magazines.
“The government campaign may devastate what is left of Polish democracy”
The American Washington Post also writes about the situation of Polish media. The journal begins its text with a comparison of the situation in Poland and Hungary. “Both Poland and Hungary have remained in a dispute with the European Union over the violation of the rule of law, but until now one of the differences between these countries has been the relatively strong position of Polish media, created by many independent entities. This may change” – notes the newspaper.
“WaPo” writes that after Andrzej Duda’s “narrow victory” over the opposition candidate Rafał Trzaskowski in the July presidential elections, the ruling Law and Justice party announced a program of “repolonization and deconcentration of independent media, which would clearly mean their transformation into official mouthpieces”.
The Washington daily also cited reports about PKN Orlen negotiating the purchase of newspapers from the Polska Press group, and in this context refers to the Hungarian example. “This model was adopted earlier in Hungary, where independent journalism was eliminated not through brutal censorship but the purchase of entities by the government or businessmen favoring it,” the newspaper notes.
“The government campaign may devastate what is left of Polish democracy, which was weakened anyway by the takeover of the judiciary by PiS,” assesses the Washington Post.
Washington Post, Financial Times
Main photo source: tvn24.pl