Legislation designed to give Poland’s newly-elected conservative government control of state media outlets and the sole power to appoint executives to senior broadcasting positions has been slammed by European Commissioner Günther Oettinger.
Mr Oettinger has accused Poland, the European Union’s (EU) sixth-largest member state, of infringing “common European values” and threatened the country with immediate sanctions coupled with legal action.
The Polish president, Andrzej Duda, has already signed the bill into law. Now the move could start a series of steps that, if the law remains in place, could eventually see Warsaw stripped of voting rights at the European Council, the organisation that groups the leaders of all 28 EU nations.
In an interview with the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Sunday, the commissioner for the digital economy and society said: “Many reasons exist for us to activate the ‘Rule of Law mechanism’ and for us to place Warsaw under monitoring.”
“A director (of public radio or television) cannot be dismissed without cause. It would be arbitrary.”
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has threatened to implement the rule of law procedure, in place since 2014 to protect against “systemic dangers to the rule of law,” the paper reported.
The measure is the latest in a raft of measures introduced by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, which won a general election in October.
The media bill, which was submitted to the conservative-dominated parliament on December 30, 2015 was easily approved by 232 lawmakers, with 152 voting against and 34 MPs abstaining.
Under the new law, senior figures in public radio and television will in future be appointed — and sacked — by the treasury minister, and no longer through contests by the National Broadcasting Council.
Even before the parliamentary vote was taken, European Commission Vice President chief Frans Timmermans was threatening the Polish government on the basis that “freedom and pluralism of the media (are) crucial for society and rule of law,” commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said in a tweet – see below.
Freedom and pluralism of the media crucial for society and rule of law. @TimmermansEU requests information from PL gvmt on draft media law.
— Margaritis Schinas (@MargSchinas) December 30, 2015
The eurosceptic ruling PiS party has defended the legislation. It said its moves were designed to cut costs and boost “professional standards and ethics” while bringing an element of accountability to the national broadcaster which is funded solely by taxpayers.
“As the first step, we will change the principles of electing the public television (TVP) and Polish Radio (PR) officials,” said Krzysztof Czabanski, deputy minister of culture, in charge of reforming the Polish media market.
“In the next phase, we will pass a law on national media which will change the functioning of public media and the rules for their financing,” he added.
PiS wants to transform the public radio and television stations as well as the PAP news agency into cultural institutions overseen by a national media council, due to be founded by the new government.
The sweeping media reforms are part of a strong push for change by PiS which is distrustful of the EU and an advocate of a strong NATO stance in dealing with Moscow. PiS opposes joining the eurozone any time soon and promises more welfare spending on the poor.
It also wants to enshrine more Roman Catholic values in law, reflecting the party’s deeply socially conservative stance.
As Breitbart London has reported, the new Polish government has been notable for a sudden shift in foreign and domestic policy from the former ruling coalition.
The new foreign secretary has been unashamedly outspoken on migration, doubling down on comments by his party leader on migrants introducing disease and parasites to Europe, and stating his position that there would be no welcome for them in Poland.
Meanwhile the Polish prime minister Beata Szydło has banished European Union flags from government offices and press conferences, remarking that in future she only wanted to see “the most beautiful red and white Polish flags” when doing government business.
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