Poland’s plan to “repolonize” foreign-owned media

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is alarmed about the latest threat to media pluralism in Poland – a proposed law to “repolonize” the country’s press by imposing a limit on the level of foreign capital in Polish media companies.

Deputy culture minister Jaroslaw Sellin announced on 21 March that the government led by the ultra-conservative Law and Justice party (PiS) expects to unveil this proposed media law by the summer.

The announcement appears to be a response to the leaking of a letter from Mark Dekan, the CEO of the Swiss-German media company Ringier Axel Springer, on 17 March to the employees of the media outlets it owns in Poland.

The letter hailed former Polish premier Donald Tusk’s reelection as president of the European Council despite strong opposition from the PiS government. Tusk’s reelection was a victory “for all Poles who are proud of belonging to the EU,” Dekan’s letter said.

Condemning his comment as “interference” in Poland’s internal affairs, the Polish government clearly saw it as a gold opportunity for reasserting its view that Poland’s foreign-owned media outlets do not defend Polish values enough.

After turning the state media into propaganda tools and financially throttling newspapers opposed to its reforms, the government now plans to “repolonize” the ownership of foreign-owned Polish media outlets that employ journalists critical of government.

The targets include TVN, a TV channel controlled since March 2015 by Scripps Networks Interactive, a US media company, and Newsweek Polska, a news magazine owned by the Ringier Axel Springer group.

“We condemn the Polish government’s latest attempt to gag the media in order to extend its political influence,” said Pauline Adès-Mével, the head of RSF’s EU-Balkans desk.

“The plan to ‘repolonize’ the national media – to use the government’s own term – by exploiting anti-monopoly mechanisms and by forcing foreign investors to sell their media outlets poses a grave danger to media pluralism and freedom.”

Poland is ranked 47th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.

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Updated on 23.03.2017