Honorable Members of the Council of Europe, ladies and gentlemen
Thank you very much for inviting me to this sitting. I am the deputy Chief editor of the polish newspaper „Gazeta Wyborcza” founded in may 1989 after the fall of Communism and the peaceful revolution, carried out thanks to the round table agreement from 1989.
During the first free elections in Poland we represented candidates of the “Solidarity” democratic opposition. In honour of this we named our newspaper “Gazeta Wyborcza” which means “Election newspaper” in polish, the newspaper became a symbol of our regained freedom of speech.
I am not a member of any political party. I am frankly concerned about the fate of democracy and the media in Poland, for this reason I have accepted your honourable invitation.
I would point it out: please note, that the party governing Poland will describe my speech here as an act of treason. The polish government declares every criticism on the international stage as a denunciation of Poland. Those, who commit this crime are, according to Jaroslaw Kaczynski “bearing a gene of treason and are the worst sort of Poles”. Since then, thousands of people demonstrating under the EU flags in order to defend democracy have begun to describe themselves as “the worst sort”.
Therefore, please take my words with due caution.
The great purge
I am not going to discuss events that may occur. It is enough to describe what already has happened. Here are the facts:
On 30 December 2015 the governing party PIS changed the structure of the public media. The new law was passed within only 60 hours, all suggestions of the opposition were declined. The amendment consisted on 6 paragraphs, but the change is big.
At once the management of polish public radio and television was changed. The appointment of employees will depend only on the Treasury Minister. There will be no recruitment procedure; no consultations with the polish Broadcasting Council, there will be no term of office. The aforementioned Minister may appoint for the job of CEO of public television practically anyone for any period of time. It is the biggest attack on media during the 26 years of history of the third polish republic. The PIS party described this action as “the restoration of a national television” and its representatives were shouting in Parliament: “free media”.
With no delay, a new manager of polish public television was appointed: it was a member of government and widely known spin-doctor of the PIS party, who was responsible for many election campaigns of the party. After the appointment, Mr. Jacek Kurski declared himself to be “a guarantee that television remains unpolitical”.
PIS was taking no trouble in hiding their true intentions: the press officer of the parliamentary PIS group, Mrs Beata Mazurek said: ”at least the media coverage, that we do not accept, will cease to exist”.
Since then 65 journalist from public media were dismissed or forced to leave, we haven´t seen such a purge since 1989. Popular journalists with many years of professional experience were dismissed. The vice minister of Culture was pointing out personally the journalists to be sacked:” I don´t like Mr. Lis in television, also Mrs Tadla and Mr. Krasko must go”. On the spot the news magazines were “cleansed”, the jobs were given to journalists from Father Rydzyk’s Catholic TV Trwam and from the right- wing television station TV Republika. The Laboratory for Reseach on Media of the Warsaw University assessed the aforementioned broadcasters before the elections in 2015 as the most influenced by PIS.
The CEO of public radio 1 „Jedynka” Mr. Kamil Dabrowa was disciplinary dismissed because he was broadcasting the polish national hymn and the hymn of the European Union every hour as a protest against political influence on the media.
The Association of Journalists is carrying out an observation of all the dismissal cases and rending every possible help and assistance. There is a list of the fired journalist for your disposition.
PIS has also announced the rushed implementation of a new law on the national media. According to the project public television and radio will become “cultural objects” such as museums, theatres or opera houses and will be a government agency. This means, that all current employees will be sacked
and replaced by new ones who are politically loyal.
And now a few words on private media.
We are under enormous pressure
During the election campaign PIS announced “restoring of the polish national private media”. At the time what this exactly means remains unknown and how the party is going to reach this goal. On the polish market are present: the German Passauer Neue Presse, regional press and Axel Springer- the owner of the internet portal Onet and of tabloid “Fakt”, of the polish edition of Newsweek, the broadcaster TVN belongs to an American company Scripps Networks Interactive. These broadcasters are independent, and they are not worshipping the actual government.
“Gazeta Wyborcza “ is under strong pressure, we are receiving anonymous threats practically every day. In the case of death threats, we complain any offence to the public prosecutor. On 13 December, the anniversary of the introduction of martial law in Poland in 1981, the rosary procession with an exorcism was held in front of our building. The members were expelling the demons from our newspaper, we offered them warm tea. Later on government supporters appeared and were protesting against the ”anti-polish lies of Gazeta Wyborcza, support for gender (LGBTI) and multicultural ideology and inviting Islamic terrorist to Poland”. Our answer was a demonstration against the threats to free speech.
The Ministry of Justice has forbidden that courts of law and public authorities subscribe to newspapers critical of the government such as: “Gazeta Wyborcza”, “Tygodnik Polityka” and “Newsweek Polska”. It was announced that a Polish Media House will be founded in order to collect all advertisement income of the media with public participation. Afterwards the income will be redistributed to government friendly media.
Senator Kornel Morawiecki has quoted the Nazi lawyer Cael Schmitt in the Polish Parliament who said „the national and political will are above the law”. The entire parliamentary group of PIS cheered and met these words with a standing ovation. This is the key aspect of the system of revolution carried out currently in Poland. With the democratic institutions, that are supposed to guarantee the division of powers, being paralyzed, independent media are the last guarantee for liberal democracy.
Thank you for your attention.