RSF responds to the Polish minister who attacked it over a statement defending media independence
Minister of Justice Zbigniew Ziobro has misunderstood the concerns of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) about his attempt to impose a political agenda on Polish media. The organisation, which defends the freedom, pluralism and independence of journalism, asks the media authority KRRiT to reject the minister's legally unfounded and politically motivated complaint against the TVN and TVN24.
In his declaration published on 10 August on X (formerly Twitter), Polish Minister of Justice and Prosecutor General Zbigniew Ziobro accused RSF of “hypocrisy without limits”. In a later press release quoting his post, he added that the organisation was making “untrue claims”.
The attack followed RSF’s statement which criticised his decision to file a complaint with the National Broadcasting Council (KRRiT) against the biggest independent media TVN and its 24-hour news channel TVN24. “Political representatives of the Law and Justice government can't choose the content of the media to pursue their political agenda,” RSF declared on 4 August.
"We regret that Minister Zbigniew Ziobro misunderstands our concerns and groundlessly accuses us of not telling the truth. Asking the media authority to sanction TVN and TVN24 for what they did not broadcast is clearly a politically motivated and legally unfounded attempt on their editorial decisions. Attached to the democratic principle of media independence, RSF urges KRRiT to reject Zbigniew Ziobro’s complaint.
Zbigniew Ziobro, who is running in the October general election as the leader of the radical right-wing party party Sovereign Poland, accused TVN of breaking the law by a “partisan coverage of events”. He referred to a critical TV report about his call to the president to pardon a woman convicted in 2021 for assaulting an activist for the LGBT+ rights. According to Zbigniew Ziobro, TVN should have also informed, in its broadcasting, about an assault against a driver of a pro-life campaign truck. In that case, an appeal court discontinued the proceedings last July, due to the minor harmfulness of the attack. The minister criticised the verdict. According to the minister’s complaint, by not covering the second case in a certain period of time, TVN suggested that “acts of aggression perpetrated against people with right-wing views can be justified” and hence the channel violated the provisions of the media law forbidding broadcasters to promote violence and obliging them to respect the Christian value system.
In his statement targeting RSF on the social network X, the minister claimed he was only “pointing out the TVN station’s lack of journalistic objectivity, i.e. deliberately keeping silent about the scandal” (related to the pro-life truck driver). Furthermore, he portrayed RSF - which defends editorial independence regardless of the editorial line - as an organisation imposing on the media a certain political agenda, something he actually does himself. RSF’s criticism is not about media content, it’s based on the Polish media law, which clearly stipulates that “the broadcaster shapes the programme independently”.
The ruling majority in Poland has repeatedly attempted to undermine the channel’s independence. Two years ago, a “lex TVN” forcing the American company Discovery to sell its stake in the biggest independent media was adopted by the parliament despite RSF’s concerns. Under international pressure, the Polish president eventually vetoed the bill in late 2021.
Poland is ranked 57th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2023 World Press Freedom Index.