Police at the TVP building in Warsaw have been a regular sight of late. They were used in securing the building for the nominees of the minister of culture Bartłomiej Sienkiewicz whose actions have not so far been upheld by the courts. EPA-EFE/Kalbar


Polish Government ignores court rebuttal of public-media takeover


A Polish court has ruled that the decision by culture minister Bartłomiej Sienkiewicz to “liquidate” the country’s public television and radio stations is invalid.

The minister refused to accept the January 22 verdict, arguing that he acted in the public interest and that the liquidation will continue.

Sienkiewicz has, for the second time, been found to have acted in breach of the law. His move to appoint new management of Polish public media via the Commercial Companies Code was found to be invalid and the replacement boards were not approved by the National Court Register (KRS).

Now, the court has refused to register – and therefore recognise – the appointment of liquidators for public media organisations, citing a ruling by the Constitutional Tribunal, or court, regarding the “illegality” of the minister’s actions as grounds for its decision.

“The unprecedented nature of this case requires broader considerations and a thorough analysis of the provisions of specific laws, case law and doctrine,” the court stated in its justification.

On December 27, Sienkiewicz put State broadcasters TVP and Polskie Radio, as well as the Polish Press Agency (PAP), into liquidation. He justified the decision on the basis that President Andrzej Duda, an ally of the previous Conservative PiS government, had “vetoed legal provisions” for the funding of public media.

Duda had done so in response to an earlier move by the minister to replace State media management, a move later rejected by the KRS, which refused to recognise the new boards.

The latest decision was welcomed by the PiS. Its parliamentary caucus leader Mariusz Błaszczak said it showed that the liquidator appointed by Sienkiewicz to run the public media “no longer has any basis” to do so.

PiS MP Marcin Przydacz said the new management of public media was illegitimate as “it was physical strength that put them there and, in a democratic state ruled by law, the force of law should decide.

“Mr Sienkiewicz, it’s time to end this usurpation.”

In response to January 23’s court decision, Sienkiewicz issued a statement arguing it currently had no legal power and claiming registration by the KRS had only “declaratory” and “informational” value.

He argued it was in the “public interest” for the previous management of public media to be removed and that the latest court decision would be appealed, stating the process of liquidation “would continue”.

The minister also noted that a number of other moves to put local branches of Polskie Radio into liquidation had already been accepted by the KRS, including one in a decision made by the same court in Warsaw.

Upon coming to power in December, the new ruling coalition Government, led by Donald Tusk, pledged to “depoliticise” public media, which had been vociferous in support of the previous PiS government and hostile to Tusk and the then-opposition.

The new Government’s actions have been condemned by many legal experts as well as the PiS for having attempted to “bypass producing legislation” in order to reform public media.

Public television has also been accused of “deleting” material produced during the eight years of PiS rule, such as the contents of the TVP Weekly portal, TVP World and most of the of that published by TVP Info.

TVP admitted it had deleted some material as it was perceived to be “biased” and did not meet “journalistic standards”.

Among the “de-published” content is a documentary series called Reset, based on detailed documentary “evidence” of how and why the previous Tusk-led government of 2007-2015 tried to “improve relations” with Russia.

There has been a clear-out of journalists who were PiS supporters and they have been replaced mainly with those who, for the past eight years, have been highly critical of the party.

During the illegal migrants crisis on the border with Belarus last year, one such reporter on social media compared the behaviour of Polish border guards to that of the Nazi SS.