Controversial Polish Media Act Won't Be Reviewed by Venice Commission, Says Government

The act raises serious doubts about its compliance with international standards of independence and the pluralism of public media.
"There is no necessity for the Commission to be bothered with the public media act," the Polish minister of foreign affairs wrote in response to an appeal to seek the Venice Commission's opinion on the new act.

Controversial Act

The appeal, sent by the Helsinki Foundation For Human Rights (HFHR), emphasized that the opinion of the Venice Commission - the advisory body of the Council of Europe - would be crucial, as the act raises doubts regarding its compliance with international standards of independence and the pluralism of public media.

Additionally, the implemented act is temporary, which means that this is only the beginning of Poland's public media reform, which is intended to establish a national media system.

"Changes introduced by the act can lead to growing political dependence of public media," the HFHR said in its statement, which focuses mostly on new rules of appointing executives in public media, which gives authority to the minister of the treasury.

The statement also addresses issues like the removal of authorities’ term limits, threats to pluralism by limiting the role of the National Broadcasting Council (KRRiT), and the act’s immediate implementation on the day of its announcement.

'Your objections are invalid'

Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksander Stępkowski wrote in response to the HFHR’s appeal: "In the backdrop of changes that will result from the future act on national media, the Foundation’s concern over the lack of pluralism in public media is no longer valid."

He argued that changes in both regulations on the appointment of public media executives and protection of pluralism by KRRiT are temporary and will be repealed on June 30, 2016.

"Information on the changes in the public media system was distributed long before the proposal was submitted to the Parliament. Therefore, it cannot be stated that the public institutions to which the new act is addressed did not have enough time to adjust," Minister Stępkowski said.

It was also noted that implementation of new laws and establishing the future Board of National Media as a body responsible for appointing executives of public media will not interfere with the supervisory mandate of KRRiT, nor will it violate any of its constitutional powers to protect public interest in radio and television broadcasting.

The deputy minister also mentioned that the previous Special Congress of the Association of Polish Journalists (SDP) demanded introducing radical changes in public media, adding that the "devastating critique by the organization of journalists demanded taking an immediate action."