Freedom of the Press
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)
The Polish media remained vibrant, highly independent, and resistant to pressures from political and economic interests in 2006. The constitution forbids censorship and guarantees freedom of the press, and those principles were successfully upheld by the Constitutional Tribunal. For example, when a new Media Law went into effect in March 2006, the Tribunal struck down several articles, including provisions that would have given greater powers to the State Committee on Radio and Television (SCRT) and rules providing preferential treatment for Catholic-oriented media outlets. Libel and some forms of insult—including defamation of public officials, the state, and constitutional institutions—are criminal offenses punishable by fines and up to two years in prison. In January, when the editor in chief of Wiesci Polickie was sentenced to three months in jail for libeling a local government spokesman, the Tribunal suspended the sentence.
In 2006, the media’s tendency towards politicization was reinforced by the government’s open criticism of the media. For example, after several scandals involving the ruling coalition were revealed by investigative journalists, the government announced plans for a state-sponsored media monitoring institute and more restrictive media regulations. Officials continue to exert influence over public media, as seats on regulatory agencies and directorships of state-owned media outlets are typically political appointments. During 2006, the SCRT dealt with the media more aggressively than in previous years, imposing punitive fines on a number of occasions. In one case, a US$170,000 fine was imposed on a television station after a commentator on a satirical talk show mocked a disabled religious figure from the populist Catholic radio station Radio Maryja. The radio station Tok FM was also censured for allowing the broadcast of a satirical poem about the president. A media watchdog also showed that public television favored candidates of the ruling coalition in local elections in several major cities. Separately, in a step media freedom advocates saw as analogous to censorship, the Warsaw Regional Court in May imposed a gag order on a newspaper that was printing an investigative report into alleged financial improprieties by the previous president. In contrast, Radio Maryja was granted the status of a public broadcaster, which included an exemption from paying nearly US$500,000 in licensing fees.
Print media, including two newly launched national dailies and over 300 other newspapers, are for the most part privately owned, highly diversified, and regional papers in scope. The biggest-selling daily, the Fakt tabloid, was launched in 2003. Government-owned Polish Television and its four channels remain a major source of information for most citizens, but the private television stations TVN and PolSat continue to gain market share. The portion of the population with internet access is around 30 percent and growing, and there have been no reports of the government restricting its use.