Media revamp triggers political showdown in Poland

Poland’s culture minister announced the liquidation of state TV, radio, and news agency, escalating a clash over public media’s future following a political shift in Poland.

After a pro-European Union coalition led by Donald Tusk assumed power in Poland, a revamp of state media commenced. Critics accused the previous nationalist-led Law and Justice (PiS) party of turning these outlets into propaganda platforms during its eight-year tenure.

These reforms, introduced without standard parliamentary procedure, sparked vehement opposition from PiS, claiming the new government sidestepped protocol in executing changes.

The recent decision, triggered by President Andrzej Duda’s suspension of public media funding, prompted Bartlomiej Sienkiewicz to initiate the liquidation of Telewizja Polska SA, Polskie Radio SA, and Polska Agencja Prasowa SA. Sienkiewicz cited this action as necessary to sustain operations, facilitate restructuring, and safeguard employee jobs.

He clarified that the liquidation status could be revoked by the state, the companies’ owner, at any time.

PiS lawmaker Joanna Lichocka accused Tusk’s government of dismantling Polish media, deeming it detrimental to the state.

In December, the new government removed state news channel TVP Info from airing and dismissed media executives, asserting it aimed to restore impartiality. Critics argue that under PiS rule, TVP failed to uphold its mandate as an unbiased news source, functioning more as a governmental mouthpiece.

PiS contends that the reforms undermine media pluralism by silencing a conservative perspective and criticizes the non-parliamentary implementation of changes, a stance rejected by Tusk’s administration.

President Duda’s veto of a bill allocating 3 billion zlotys ($771 million) for state media underscored his disapproval of the government’s actions concerning public broadcasters.

Duda’s office accused Sienkiewicz of aggressive behavior and powerlessness, citing a lack of legal avenues to alter the companies’ leadership.

In a move challenging the current administration, a PiS-dominated body appointed a new TV head, conflicting with the earlier appointment made by the present government.

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