EBU welcomes EU move on Polish media law

Frans Timmermans (right) with chief spokesperson Margaritis Schinas

Frans Timmermans (right) with chief spokesperson Margaritis Schinas

The EBU has welcomed the EU’s initiation of a preliminary ‘structured dialogue’ with the Polish government about the country’s controversial new media law under the ‘rule of law’ powers created in 2014 to protect democratic values.

The European Commission has requested information on the impact of changes in the law on Poland’s public service broadcasters, as well as to the Polish Constitutional Tribunal. The EC College held a preliminary debate yesterday on developments in Poland. The debate followed presentations on the media law by EC vice-president Frans Timmermans, media policy commissioner Günther Oettinger and justice commissioner Věra Jourová.

The EU move is the first time it has used the rule of law powers. The initial debate focused primarily on the impact of legislation affecting Poland’s highest court which the EC believes will remove checks on government powers and compromise the independence of the judiciary.

Regarding the media law, the Polish Senate passed the first phase of the reform of this at the end of last year December, with measures that allow immediately replace the members of the Management and Supervisory Boards of Telewizja Polska and Polskie Radio and to appoint new members of its own choice, without the usual safeguards present in other states.

Last week the government removed managers and board members of the two public broadcasters.

The EC has held back from head-on confrontation with the Polish government, with Timmermans calling for clarification of the facts and a dialogue with the Polish authorities in the first instance.

“As vice-president Timmermans has pointed out, there is a clear link between rule of law, democracy, and freedom of the media. As it stands, the recent Polish media law goes against basic principles and established standards of public service media governance throughout Europe,” said EBU director-general Ingrid Deltenre.

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