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Austrian daily ‘Die Presse’ reports AEJ Open Letter to Polish ministers against broadcasting law; new rules now in force despite widespread appeals and protests

Leading Austrian daily Die Presse is among the the European media which reported the AEJ’s Open Letter, which was delivered to the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage on 29 December 2015. The letter called for the planned sweeping changes to be halted, because the new Polish legislation would bring public broadcasting under the direct control of the ruling Law and Justice Party and cause dismay among those in Armenia, Moldova, Ukraine and Russia who are striving to achieve press freedom and independence as part of their struggle for democratic change.

On 30 December the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) issued a joint statement with the Association of European Journalists, European Federation of Journalists, Reporters Without Borders and Committee to Protect Journalists, which charged that the effect of the new broadcasting law is to abolish existing safeguards for pluralism and independence of public service media governance in Poland; it urged the Polish authorities to resist any temptation to strengthen political control over the media.

On 4 January 2016 the seven journalists’ and press freedom organisations that are partners on the Council of Europe’s Platform on the protection of journalism and the safety of journalists submitted a joint Alert to the Platform calling on the Polish ruling party to abandon the proposed legislation, stating that it is in breach of Council of Europe norms and of the mandate given by the Polish constitution to the independent National Broadcasting Council (KRRiT) to uphold the broad public interest in broadcasting. The Alert said: ‘The Polish government’s plans directly contradict the commitments made by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in its 2012 Declaration on Public Service Media Governance’, which states that PSM must remain independent of political or economic interference, and should be accountable and transparent as they have the obligation to serve the public in all its diversity.’

On Thursday 7 January the president of Poland, Andrzej Duda, signed the contested law into force, ignoring appeals by many media and NGO organisations, as well as the Council of Europe and the European Commission, among others.

At the weekend many thousands of Poles took part in public demonstrations to protest against the new regime in Polish public broadcasting services, and at the abrupt dismissal of top management figures in public TV and Radio and their replacement by others known to be loyal to the ruling Law and Justice Party.

Open letter from AEJ: "AEJ Open Letter asks Polish ministers to shelve ‘hasty’ plans for government control over public broadcasting "

Press release by EBU: "Press Freedom and Media Organisations issue statement opposing abolition of essential safeguards for public service media pluralism and independence in Poland"

Council of Europe ‘Platform’ Alert about the Polish public service media law by AEJ, Article 19, EFJ, IFJ, Index on Censorship, Reporters Without Borders here.

[ http://www.coe.int/en/web/ media-freedom ]

EBU letter to Polish Parliament (29 December 2015)

Open letter from AEJ: "AEJ Open Letter asks Polish ministers to shelve ‘hasty’ plans for government control over public broadcasting "

BBC : http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/ world-europe-35202280

EurActiv: http://www.euractiv.com/ sections/eu-priorities-2020/ eu-takes-unprecedented-step- against-poland-over-rule-law- 320634

EU Observer: https://euobserver.com/ justice/131706

Irish Times: http://www.irishtimes.com/ news/world/europe/fears-at- polish-curbs-on-judicial-and- media-freedom-1.2487185#. Vo7qAriyuyY.mailto

Hungary: http://nemzeti.net/az-aej- aggodik-a-lengyel-kozmediaert- 3675484.html

Prague Post: http://www.praguepost.com/eu- news/51361-pending-polish- media-law-draws-criticism

AFP: http://www.euractiv.fr/ sections/europe-centrale/ quatre-organisations-de- presse-portent-plainte-contre- la-pologne-320670

France 24: http://www.france24.com/fr/ 20160103-pologne-loi-controle- medias-journalisme-ue

Letter from Council of Europe Secretary-General to President Dada of Poland here.

Blog by Jean-Paul Marthoz, CPJ: Will the EU’s actions speak louder than words?