Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Generally, media operate freely in an environment not dominated by overbearing political or economic interests. The Polish constitution forbids censorship and guarantees freedom of the press. However, some old Communist-era regulations remaining on the books can be abused to harass investigative journalists. A new and much discussed Media Law remains in draft form. Critics of the proposed legislation argue that it is motivated by successive governments' desire to strengthen control over public media and to rein in private sector media through constraints on ownership. Public officials already exert considerable pressure on public and state-owned media; seats on regulatory agencies and directorships of state-owned media are effectively political appointments. Late 2005 saw a reorganization of the State Committee on Radio and Television, with a new law ending the term of the committee members, reducing the number of members, and reappointing an entirely new committee. Media advocates criticized these changes for the accelerated manner in which they were conducted, the lack of public consultations, and an unclear vision for the future of the media.
Libel and some forms of insult are criminal offenses subject to fines or imprisonment. In 2005, prosecutions for libel or the threat thereof were used to intimidate some media outlets and investigative journalists, which may lead to increased self-censorship. Legal actions included attempts to introduce a gag order, criminal slander charges, and demands of $1.5 million in damages brought against several leading publications by the Polish National Council of Credit Unions. In a case brought by the PZU Insurance Company and its former director, who is currently under investigation for mismanagement and financial improprieties, all of these actions were used, though one of the gag orders imposed was later struck down by a higher court. Investigative coverage on legal issues surrounding the J&S Group's monopoly on supplying oil and alleged commissions paid to public officials also resulted in legal action against a weekly publication, including demands of $3 million in damages. A long-standing criminal insult case concerning an article that denigrated Pope John Paul II was resolved with the conviction of Jerzy Urban, publisher of the Nie weekly magazine, a suspended sentence, and a fine of $6,500. At the close of 2005, Andrzej Marek, editor of the weekly Wiesci Polickie, was slated to serve a three-month sentence following a conviction for libeling a local official.
Print media are highly diversified. The government-owned Polish Television and its five channels remain the major source of information, but the country also sustains a number of private television stations, among them TVN and PolSat, which have gained a considerable share of viewers. About a third of the population accesses the internet, and there have been no reports of the government restricting internet use.