49 out of 173 in the latest worldwide index
Area: 312 679 sq. km.
Head of state: Lech Kaczynski, since 2005
The legislative agenda for media sector reform was particularly heavy in 2008 with the political class determined to secure the allegiance of journalists and of the broadcast council. A section of the political class still refuses to break with practices left over from the Soviet era and has trouble adjusting to the independence of a press that is no longer wedded to the “nationalist imperative”.
The media reform that was confirmed by the Constitutional Court in September 2008 bans journalists from publishing articles that have not been checked and approved by people quoted in the article. Going beyond an automatic right to reply, the new law establishes “prior censorship”, leaving all editorial freedom at the mercy of the most arbitrary re-reading. This is in complete contradiction to European standards and likely to reduce the press to a pure propaganda role.
Just as surprising was a clause in the new criminal law, Article 132a, allowing three-year jail terms for anyone publicly defaming the Polish nation. Fortunately this was struck out by the Constitutional Court.
Another major issue was reform of the National Broadcasting Council (KKRIT) set to reduce the institution’s effectiveness. The reform including removing its right to grant broadcast licences, which was to be transferred to the Office of Electronic Communications (UKE), but President Kackzynski’s veto in May 2008 temporarily suspended application of the reform, which now has to go for a vote in parliament.
The president’s relationships with the press can however be strained. He lost his temper at the October 2008 European summit with Monika Olejnik, presenter of the programme “Dotting the i” on TVN24 when she asked him a question about the candidacy of former president Lech Walesa to a post on an international reflection group on Europe’s future. Lech Kackzynski threatened to ruin her career and accused her of being a member of the special services. A complaint made by the television station to the KRRIT was withdrawn after the president apologised to the journalist.