The Polish media regulator has fined private broadcaster TVN24 nearly 1.5 million Zloty (355,000) for its coverage of protests last year, a move seen by critics as yet another blow to press freedom in Poland since the conservative Law and Justice party came to power in 2015. The National Broadcasting Council issued TVN24 with the fine for allegedly “promoting illegal activities and encouraging behaviour that threatens security” in the way it covered protests in parliament against a government bill to restrict media access to the legislature. The American-owned broadcaster has denied the charges against it said it will appeal the fine.
Observers note that the regulator’s action against TVN24 is in keeping with the authoritarian tendency displayed by the ruling PiS party when it comes to dealing with institutions that criticise the government. Last year the government took over control of the state media and empowered the treasury minister to hire and fire senior figures in public radio and television. Measures like this coupled with the move to limit media access to parliament has led to a sharp fall in Poland’s position on the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index from 18th to 54th in two years.
The US State Department said in a statement on Tuesday that the fine against the American-owned broadcaster “appears to undermine media freedom in Poland, a close ally and fellow democracy.”
The clampdown on the independence of the media is just one of a number of areas in which Poland’s relationship with the EU has soured. Last week Brussels referred Poland, as well as the Czech Republic and Hungary, to the European Court of Justice for refusing to accept asylum seekers under the EU migrant quota system and it has threatened to start proceedings that could lead to the loss of Poland’s voting rights in the council over controversial judicial reforms widely seen as undermining the independence of the courts.