Poland’s President Andrzej Duda signed media legislation into law Thursday giving the government control over public television and radio, the Associated Press reported. The government argued that the bitterly contested move was necessary to ensure that the nation's media remain “impartial, objective and reliable.”
The European Union and media watchdog groups have expressed concerns over the new law, which allows for the current heads of state radio and television networks, TVP1 and Polskie Radio, to be terminated and replaced by appointees of the treasury minister. TVP1 directors have already resigned, the Economist reported. The media law comes after another controversial law that targeted Poland’s constitutional court by increasing the number of judges required to agree on rulings.
The EU’s human rights commissioner urged Poland not to enact the media law, while the press freedom group Reporters Without Borders said Warsaw was embarking on an “anti-democratic road” similar to that of Hungary.
“This new law, giving the government full powers to appoint and dismiss the heads of the public broadcast media, constitutes a flagrant violation of media freedom and pluralism,” said Alexandra Geneste, the head of Reporters Without Border’s EU-Balkans desk.
While Duda signed the media law Thursday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the commission would not provoke a showdown with Warsaw over it.
“Let’s not overdramatize. It’s an important issue. But we have to have friendly and good relations with Poland. Our approach is very constructive; we’re not bashing Poland,” Juncker said, the EU Observer reported.
The European Commission is scheduled to hold a debate next week on recent constitutional developments in Poland since the right-wing Law and Justice Party came to power in October. While Juncker has tried to reassure Warsaw, in the debate could conceivably lead to Poland losing voting rights within the 28-member EU, the Associated Press reported.
Poland became an EU member in 2004 and the former communist state has long been considered the great success story of Eastern Europe, with strong economic growth.