Europe

Council of Europe urges Poland to scrap new media law

The law, adopted by Polish parliament last week, removes guarantees for the independence of public service TV and radio

06.01.2016
Council of Europe urges Poland to scrap new media law

PARIS

Top Council of Europe officials have urged Polish President Andrzej Duda to not sign a new controversial law that gives sweeping powers to authorities to control the media.

Secretary-General of the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe Thorbjorn Jagland expressed his concerns about the impact of the new media law in his letter to the Polish president Tuesday, the council said in a statement Wednesday.

Jagland said the new law on public service broadcasting, adopted by the Polish parliament last week, may impact the integrity and independence of public service media in the country.

The law on "Public Service Media" removes guarantees of independence of public service television and radio. It allows a government minister to appoint and dismiss all members of the supervisory and management boards of public media outlets.

A group of media rights organizations issued Tuesday a joint complaint against Poland at the Council of Europe over the law.

“The proposed arrangements represent a shift to direct government control over the strategic and editorial stance of the public broadcasters which is wholly unacceptable in a genuine democracy," read the complaint signed by the Association of European Journalists, the International Federation of Journalists, the European Federation of Journalists and the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Jagland urged the Polish president "to open dialogue with our [EU] experts on media freedom, in order to have the best possible basis for your consideration before signing this act into law".

Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muiznieks, also urged the Polish president to not sign the media law Tuesday.

"The law worryingly places public service media under direct government control by giving the latter the powers to appoint and dismiss the members of the supervisory and management boards of public service television and radio.

"These arrangements contradict Council of Europe standards which notably require that public service media remain independent of political or economic interference," Muiznieks said.

EU Digital Economy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger accused Poland of infringing "common European values" by passing legislation.

In an interview with the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Sunday, Oettinger said the issue will be discussed at the European Commission meeting on Jan.13.

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