EU executive voices concern over planned Polish media law

Frans Timmermans sent a waning letter [European Commission]

The European Commission sent a letter to two Polish ministers yesterday (30 December) expressing concern over a proposed law on control of the country’s state-run media, a spokesman for the EU executive said, another sign of disquiet in Brussels over Poland’s new political path.

An amendment to Polish media law that would give the treasury minister the authority to appoint the management of state-run radio and television has been sent to parliament by the ruling conservative-nationalist Law and Justice party (PiS).

“Freedom and pluralism of the media are crucial for a pluralist society in a member state respectful of the common values on which the union is founded,” European Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans wrote in the letter.

Parliament approved the amendment on Wednesday evening, Polish state-run news agency PAP said. It still needs to be approved by the upper house of the parliament and then signed by the president. Critics say the amendment is part of PiS plans to increase state control over public media.

The eurosceptic PiS, which ousted the governing centrist party by a wide margin in the October election, rejects criticism that its policies are undermining Poland’s democracy. The party says it has a broad mandate to redesign the country to reflect its Catholic values and independence from European Union headquarters in Brussels.

The European Commission letter asks Poland’s foreign and justice ministers to explain how the new law would take existing EU rules on media freedoms into consideration, the spokesman said.

The PiS has long aimed to overhaul rules on public broadcasters to ensure they defend what it defines as national interests. The party has yet to present a bill on the matter but has signalled plans to “depoliticise” the state media and lay off journalists deemed to be politically affiliated.

Last week the EU executive expressed concern over an overhaul of the rules governing Poland’s constitutional court, demanding their introduction be postponed.

>> Read: EU warns Poland to protect ‘rule of law’ over judicial crisis

The Commission will discuss the recent developments in Poland at the next meeting of commissioners on 13 January.

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