In response to criticism from the Polish Journalists Association (SDP), Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reiterates the concern about media freedom in Poland that it expressed at a press conference in Warsaw on 21 February.
A statement issued by the SDP after RSF’s visit to Warsaw accuses our organization of “stigmatizing” Poland over its violations of free speech standards and objects to our calling for sanctions by the European Union.
It is important to remember that the current conservative government began carrying a series of very controversial reforms as soon as it took office, including a state media law in December 2015 that gave it direct control over public broadcasting and allowed it to immediately replace the heads of the state radio and TV stations.
After seizing control of the state media, the government set about financially throttling several independent newspapers that were opposed to its reforms. Its current goal is to maintain pressure on the privately-owned media and to “re-Polishize” those that are foreign-owned.
All these development allow us to conclude that media freedom and pluralism are now in great danger in Poland and that the European Union should not allow one of its members to trample on the EU’s fundamental values.
The SDP accuses RSF of using double standards because it did not speak out with the same energy when many people were fired from the state media under the previous Civic Platform and Polish People’s Party (PO-PSL) coalition government.
RSF points out that, contrary to what happened in 2009, the Polish judicial system ruled in June 2016 that public radio executive Kamil Dabrowa’s dismissal was illegal and violated the right to work. Similar court decisions in other cases are expected in the next few months.
RSF will therefore continue to condemn the fact that the ruling party has removed dozens of journalists from the state-owned broadcast media on the grounds that these media were systematically hostile towards the government.
The concern in France and other countries about the impact of excessively concentrated media ownership on media freedom is cited by the SDP as grounds for disputing RSF’s right to criticize the Polish government’s plans to regulate media ownership, which are a source of great concern for Poland’s media.
The SDP needs to be reminded that the Polish government has repeatedly attacked media freedom in the past year.
In fact, to avoid seeing Poland continue on the road already taken by Hungary’s Viktor Orban, RSF believes it has a duty to immediately alert public opinion and European bodies to the threat that Poland’s government poses to democracy and freedom of information.
RSF is an international NGO that has its headquarters in Paris and is registered as a non-profit in France. It promotes and defends the freedom to inform and be informed throughout the world.