No Holiday for the Media and Democracy in Poland

Dog Days of Politics for the Ruling Coalition Falling Apart Over Lex TVN

11 August 2021

Wojciech Przybylski

Editor-in-Chief

Minority ruling coalition partner Jarosław Gowin has been axed overnight. The varied reasons include a derailing of the transatlantic partnership, a Lex TVN law about to damage media freedom further, political manoeuvres in response to the EU court decision on reversing judicial overhaul and a spotlight on the public money changing hands. These moves by Warsaw echo those in Budapest and are a Putinesque method of muzzling free media through the apparent regulation of ownership structure. Why has the PiS government launched a number of extremely risky political initiatives exactly in the middle of summer?

Ancient Greeks and Romans believed the dog days to be the drought days of July and August when animals and men were turning mad because of extreme temperatures. While the summer in Poland is currently a mix of rain and cold, the political heat is torrid, a self-afflicted state which seems like lunacy. In reality, the ruling party PiS believes itself to be besieged on all fronts and is facing the last test of unity before its ultimate collapse.

Polish Media Capture Prize — An Attempted Bullseye

Today, the lower chamber of the Polish parliament voted on changes to the media law to limit control over the market only to owners from the European Economic Area. The final vote was at first postponed when the government lost control of the parliamentary process. Then passed with a simple majority by the lower chamber. Now it will likely be mulled and derailed by the Senate for up to 30 days at which point PiS would require a majority of those present in the Sejm to overrule it as well as President Duda’s signature.

Nonetheless, Jarosław Kaczyński is determined and has promised to use his influence with the Constitutional Tribunal to change the law however he wishes. This move is considered hostile primarily towards the main private TV channel TVN and its prominent news substation TVN24, but in truth, it aims to shatter the foundations of the media market in Poland, specifically severing ties with several Western companies that have invested in the country.

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Wojciech Przybylski

Editor-in-Chief

Political analyst heading Visegrad Insight's policy foresight on European affairs. His expertise includes foreign policy and political culture. Editor-in-Chief of Visegrad Insight and President of the Res Publica Foundation. Europe's Future Fellow at IWM - Institute of Human Sciences in Vienna and Erste Foundation. Wojciech also co-authored a book 'Understanding Central Europe’, Routledge 2017. He has been published in Foreign Policy, Politico Europe, Journal of Democracy, EUObserver, Project Syndicate, VoxEurop, Hospodarske noviny, Internazionale, Zeit, Dziennik Gazeta Prawna, Onet, Gazeta Wyborcza and regularly appears in BBC, Al Jazeera Europe, Euronews, TRT World, TVN24, TOK FM, Swedish Radio and others.

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