Poland's pro-EU government on Wednesday launched a reform of state media and sacked their management, with public broadcasts interrupted and right-wing lawmakers staging a sit-in to protest the changes.
The shakeup comes a week after Prime Minister Donald Tusk took power after eight years of rule by the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party.
State-owned media under the PiS were regularly accused of biased reporting, transmitting government propaganda, and launching verbal attacks on the opposition.
The culture ministry said in a statement the chairmen and boards of the state-owned television, radio, and news agency had been removed in a bid to restore the “impartiality” of public media.
Shortly after the announcement, state news channel TVP's regular broadcast was suspended, with only the television logo visible on TV screens.
The TVP Info news channel's website was also taken down.
The new ruling bloc on Tuesday adopted a resolution calling on the restoration of “impartiality and reliability of the public media.”
But PiS lawmakers largely boycotted the parliamentary vote, staging a sit-in in the state television buildings that continued throughout the night into Wednesday.
- 'Partisan discourse' -Following the changes in state media management, PiS chairman Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the party's most prominent politician and for eight years widely regarded as Poland's de facto leader, was seen entering the state television building.
“There is no democracy without media pluralism or strong anti-government media, and in Poland these are the public media,” Kaczynski told reporters on Tuesday evening.Kaczynski said PiS politicians will continue the protest on rotating shifts.
Former prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki, also present in the building, said “a forcible intrusion” of the new management was taking place in state-owned television.
“What we are seeing is the first step towards a dictatorship,” Morawiecki told reporters.On Wednesday, an AFP reporter also saw police enter the television building.
A former culture minister in the PiS government said the state media reshuffle was “illegal.”
“This is clearly an attack on free media, it is a violation of the law,” Piotr Glinski told AFP.
The PiS government was frequently criticized by the opposition and non-profits alike for trying to stifle independent media and limit freedom of expression.
Global media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in 2020 said “partisan discourse and hate speech are still the rule within (Poland's) state-owned media, which have been transformed into government propaganda mouthpieces.”
In the 2023 report, RSF also said the PiS government “has multiplied its attempts to change the editorial
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