The EU must not forget freedom of information in Poland
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urges European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans to address the issue of Polish government interference in the state-owned media in the “opinion” on the rule of law in Poland that he is due to present on behalf of the commission on 23 May.
The publication of an opinion expressing European Union concern about Poland’s failure to respect the rule of law is the next step in a monitoring procedure that could possibly lead to sanctions.
The EU is worried about Poland’s growing authoritarianism since a government led by the conservative Law and Justice party (PiS) took office in November. Its authoritarian measures have included the adoption of a media law in January that enables the state treasury minister to directly hire and fire state TV and radio executives. It resulted in the firing of reporters considered incompatible with the new government’s policies.
RSF condemned this law as soon as it was approved on the grounds that it violated the EU’s fundamental values, and urged the European Commission to adopt disciplinary measures if the government went ahead with its promulgation.
“It is vital that European Commission does not allow media freedom to deteriorate within the EU,” RSF said. “The Polish government’s stranglehold on the media must be clearly condemned in the opinion submitted by Frans Timmermans. We call on him to reiterate the EU’s concern about media independence to Warsaw.”
After the European Commission presents its opinion on 23 May, Poland will have two weeks to respond, failing which it will be exposed to possible sanctions that could include the suspension of its voting rights.
Poland is ranked 47th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index, a fall of 29 places from its position in the 2015 Index.