Polish TV channel fined over coverage of protests

People take part in a demonstration organized by Polish Committee for the Defence of Democracy (KOD) in front of the Sejm building in Warsaw, Poland, 18 December 2016. [Marcin Obara/EPA]

Poland’s media regulator has fined a major news channel over alleged biased coverage of anti-government protests in December 2016, and the broadcaster TVN24 vowed on Tuesday (12 December) to appeal.

Teresa Brykczynska, a spokesperson for the KRRiT regulator, told AFP that US-owned TVN24 was being fined because it “failed to inform viewers that the 16-18 December protests [2016] held outside parliament were unlawful, and for urging viewers to participate in the illegal protests.”

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TVN24, one of the EU country’s two major news channels, is appealing against the unprecedented fine of nearly 1.5 million zloty (€350,000 euros), according to a statement posted on its website.

Dozens of liberal opposition lawmakers occupied parliament’s main chamber in December last year to protest against plans by the governing rightwing Law and Justice party (PiS) to ban journalists from parliament, a measure it later dropped.

The PiS government accused the opposition lawmakers of trying to stage a coup d’état as thousands of demonstrators rallied outside parliament in support of their stance.

Brykczynska said that the media regulator had received “many complaints” about TVN24’s coverage of the events.

She added that the channel had “created a climate of tension and threat” and that “the plurality of information had not been respected”.

TVN24 said that “the accusations made by the KRRiT are based on a report lacking objectivity and rigour”.

The channel said its coverage of the protests was balanced and claims to have run live broadcasts and rebroadcasts of speeches made by powerful PiS party leader Jarosław Kaczyński.

Since taking office in October 2015, the PiS government has been accused by media and rights groups of seeking to curb press freedoms, including by ramping up state control over public broadcasters.

In July, the European Union called for an end to the “intimidation” of journalists critical of the PiS government, saying that media freedom should be respected.

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