European Union Launches Probe into Poland’s New Media Law

European Union Launches Probe into Poland's
Courtesy of Sergii Kharchenko/NurPhoto/REX/Shutterstock

LONDON — A new media law in Poland has provoked an argument with the European Union about freedom of speech and the nature of democracy.

Following October’s election in Poland, the right-wing Law and Justice Party came to power, and one of its first acts has been to tighten its grip on the public broadcaster, TVP.

At the end of last year, the Polish government extended its powers to allow it to hire and fire the heads of TVP, which commands the largest share of the country’s TV audience, as well as the publicly owned radio network and press agency. Previously the public media chiefs reported to a media supervisory committee.

In response to the new law, the heads of Poland’s public TV channels resigned in protest on Dec. 31.

This in turn has led to the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, to launch an inquiry into the allegedly anti-democratic lurch of the Polish government. In a speech Wednesday, Frans Timmermans, First Vice-President of the EC, said that the media law “raises issues relating to freedom (of expression) and pluralism of the media.”

The European Broadcasting Union, which represents public broadcasters in Europe, has also expressed its disquiet. “The haste with which this new law has been rushed through parliament strikes a discordant note about Poland and its respect for the rule of law and the democratic process,” EBU director general Ingrid Deltenre wrote in a letter to Poland’s President Andrzej Duda earlier this month.