Poland | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Poland

Poland

Freedom of the Press 2008

2008 Scores

Press Status

Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

24

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

9

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

7

Even though 2007 saw increased pressure from state institutions and ever more partisan usage of public outlets, the Polish media remained vibrant, independent, and diverse. The constitution forbids censorship and guarantees freedom of the press. 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. Convictions under these charges are rare and often result only in fines but are not unheard of: Two journalists were taken into pretrial detention this year for failure to appear in court to face criminal charges. In a separate case, a Spanish newspaper, El Pais, was charged with “defaming Poland” for a March 2007 article claiming that Poland’s government was plagued by “excessive influence from the Catholic Church, homophobia, and racism.” This was the first time any individual or outlet had been charged under Article 132 of the criminal code.

Media freedom advocates concur that political pressures on the media increased in 2007. High-ranking politicians, including the prime minister himself, accused journalists on a number of occasions of bias, cooperation with the communist-era secret services, and corruption. In fact, new legislation known as the Lustration Act required an estimated 700,000 individuals, including a number of journalists, to submit statements detailing the nature of their relationship with members of the former secret service. Failure to produce such a statement could result in a 10-year suspension from practicing one’s profession.

Leading up to the 2007 parliamentary election, domestic and international media freedom advocates noted a bias toward the ruling coalition in public media coverage. In fact, the overall election atmosphere resulted in many media outlets, both public and private, becoming more politically engaged. There were even well-documented cases of partisan oversight of evening news programming and vetting of stories that cast the government in an unfavorable light. The most high-profile example of this was the installation of a friend of the minister of justice as the political commissar in the national television company’s information agency. In another unprecedented incident, prime-time programming on the most popular public television stations was interrupted to report a corruption scandal and the arrest of an opposition parliamentarian during the 10 days prior to the elections.

Print media and radio are predominantly private and highly diversified, with a number of new national dailies launched in recent years. Government-owned Polish Television (TVP) and its four channels remain a major source of information for most citizens. This dominant position is reinforced by substantial advertising revenues and a mandatory subscription fee collected from radio and television owners. However, private television stations continue to gain a larger share of the market. Electronic media remained under the jurisdiction of the highly politicized National Radio and Television Broadcasting Council (KRRiT). During the 2007 parliamentary elections, the KRRiT was paralyzed when the chair stepped down to campaign for office. The chief of staff for the incumbent president accepted the job of chair of the national television company TVP. Just over 35 percent of the population has regular and unrestricted internet access. However, in several instances public authorities intervened to block internet content of a fascist or pornographic nature.