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POLAND: Polish parliament rejects a bill to legalise abortion

Polish parliament rejects abortion bill

A bill to legalise abortion has been rejected by right-wing MPs, making Poland one of the few European countries with very strict abortion laws.

By Bartosz Sieniawski

Euractiv (24.06.2022) –  https://bit.ly/3NoatRw – In 2020, the Constitutional Court further restricted the right to abortion, declaring it unconstitutional to terminate pregnancies resulting from foetal abnormalities. The decision of the Court, dominated by judges associated with the ruling Law and Justice party, resulted in several weeks of unrest, mass protests and strikes.

Since then, abortion in Poland has been legal only in cases of danger to the life and health of the mother and in cases of pregnancy resulting from rape. Anti-choice groups, which demand a ban on abortion in general, have announced that they plan to make abortion illegal in Poland altogether.

The project of the civic legislative initiative “Legal abortion without compromises”, which was rejected on Thursday, assumed legalisation of abortion in Poland up to the 12th week of pregnancy, and after this time only in the case of a threat to the life and health of the mother. Termination of pregnancy was to be available to all persons over 13 years of age. In addition, the draft provided for the introduction of universal education on abortion.

“I have come to you with a bill which changes the law so that it meets European and world standards on the protection of women’s life and health,” the leader of the pro-abortion organisation Women’s Strike, Marta Lempart, said in the Polish parliament.

“This bill contradicts the right to life, freedom of conscience and expression and parental rights,” ruling party MP Anna Milczanowska said, announcing that Law and Justice would reject the bill in its entirety.

Out of 460 members of the Polish parliament, 265 voted against the project, 175 voted in favour, and four abstained.

Some 61.8% of Poles support the liberalisation of the right to abortion while 26.7% of respondents disagree, according to the latest surveys.

Malta is the only other EU country with more restrictive laws where abortion is banned in all cases, even in cases of rape and if the mother’s life is in danger.

Photo credits: Shutterstock/Adam Kurylo

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POLAND: We defend and will defend “Gazeta Wyborcza”, the editorial staff says

We defend and will defend “Gazeta Wyborcza”

The management of “Gazeta Wyborcza” has lost confidence in Agora’s Management Board and files a vote of no confidence in it.


By Adam Michnik and Jarosław Kurski


Gazeta Wyborcza (25.11.2021) –  https://bit.ly/3DV0O15



Dear Readers,

the last six years have been extremely difficult for the free media, especially the press. However, we have always tried to act in such a way as not to bother our readers with our problems. You all have enough problems of your own in times of Pisan oppression.


However, we can no longer remain silent in your face. “Gazeta Wyborcza” is yours, “Wyborcza” is about you – as a club member, as a subscriber and as our faithful reader you have the right to know what is going on.


Thanks to the enormous effort of our team and your trust, we now have more than 260 thousand digital subscriptions and are among the top ten European and twenty global newspapers in this respect.


We have stable revenues and generate profits, which we want to reinvest in our development – in the editorial office, in people and in technology. In short, we have success, which paradoxically has become our problem. For it gives us something that is not tolerated by any murderous parties or any greedy and short-sighted corporations. Independence.


We are able to cope with the ruling party – despite the flood of lawsuits (about 70 today), attacks by party media, economic discrimination, problems with distribution, and heinous attacks on our journalists. The aggression of the ruling party against our newspaper defending democracy was and is predictable. The party regards us as enemies and is our enemy.


Worse still are the people who claim to be our friends, who declare help and concern. Keep us, Lord, from our friends, for we can deal with our enemies on our own.


A sudden strike


For the past five months we have been trying to resolve the biggest crisis in the history of “Gazeta Wyborcza” provoked by Agora’s Management Board. On June 8, the President of the Management Board Bartosz Hojka decided to suddenly, without consulting the management of “Wyborcza”, sack our publisher, the architect of our success, Jerzy Wójcik, and merge “Wyborcza” with the Gazeta.pl portal which is successfully going its own way to create a harmful mix of incompatible content and business models.


Agora was looking for savings, which would have made some journalists redundant. Worse, it wanted to deprive us of control over our subscriptions, which are the foundation of “Wyborcza’s” financial independence today and in the future.


Agora’s Management Board informed us of its intentions a few hours before they were announced. The solidarity of our team, the editorial management and many friends of “Wyborcza” prevented this triple – ethical, political and business – mistake.


The relative calm between us and the Management Board, which prevailed for a month, did not mean – as we wanted to believe – that the crisis was extinguished. The Board used this time to prepare a new war with “Wyborcza”.


On Tuesday, 23 November, Bartosz Hojka – again out of the blue – dismissed Jerzy Wójcik, our editor, on disciplinary grounds. You know these methods. Now this is done from home. Remotely. After 30 years of work, an e-mail arrives, then they disconnect the e-mail account, the card doesn’t work, they take away the phone and the computer. And out the door. No rights. This is what “ethics” looks like in a company whose management is full of fine words. And here we have the despicable abuse of an employee.


“Wyborcza” is yours


If only the Management Board of Agora had been as consistent in the conduct of its business as in its hunt for the publisher of “Wyborcza”, a share in the company would now be worth PLN 800, not eight.


In fact, this is not a personal conflict to which the Management Board falsely reduces the problem. It is about who “Gazeta Wyborcza” belongs to.


Does it belong to the readers and the people who have left their whole lives in the editorial office? Or to the “machers of cash” and Excel?


Will “Wyborcza” continue to be the home of the Polish democratic intelligentsia? Or is it to be a generator of high profits for the company? In other words: will the hard earned profits of “Wyborcza” be invested in necessary development or will they be taken by the corporation.


Finally, will it be a modern newspaper competing with other media invested by global giants? Or will it – as the head of Agora’s supervisory board put it – only be “13 per cent of the company’s value”, i.e. an entertainment and media conglomerate betting on fast food and popcorn.


So please know, dear readers, friends from outside the courthouses, participants in the protests in defense of the Constitution and in the Women’s Strike, defenders of the rights of persecuted minorities, defenders of the European Union, defenders of our planet, social and local government activists – your “Wyborcza” is today hostage to people with a “13 percent” mentality.




You ask: what is all this for? Is it all about – and this time, under this authoritarian regime – butchering “Wyborcza”, destroying its success, creating unrest in the team, weakening its title and brand, and thus neutralizing “Gazeta Wyborcza” in its mission to defend democracy in Poland?


We therefore publicly question this Board: Bartosz Hoyka, Anna Krynska, Tomasz Jagiełło, Tomasz Grabowski, Agnieszka Siuzdak, as well as Wanda Rapaczyński, who patronises them: is this your acrimonious vindictiveness, stupidity or mistake?


We also ask our “founding mother”, the owner of the golden share, Helena Luczywo. It is a painful question for the editorial team and management: Why do you allow all this? Helena, why do you accept the slow destruction of your life’s work as well? Do you really think that the fate of “Wyborcza” will be better taken care of by the corporation than by the “Gazeta Wyborcza” team itself?


We do not have answers to these questions. We do not know what is the hidden plan behind it, but we know that this Board of Directors acts to the detriment of “Gazeta Wyborcza”, that it is simply dangerous for “Wyborcza”. It is made up of people who have no idea what publishing a modern newspaper is all about, and they have just fired one of the best specialists on the market because he did not suck up to them.


This will not do


The disciplinary dismissal of our publisher was handed out in violation of labour law and is ineffective. Today editor-in-chief Adam Michnik appointed Jerzy Wojcik as deputy editor-in-chief for development. Agora’s questioning of this fact and preventing him from performing the duties entrusted to him by the editor-in-chief will be treated as yet another assault by the Management Board on the independence of “Wyborcza”.


We do not expect anything good from this Management Board. That is why we are not addressing this letter to them, but to you – the real owners of ‘Wyborcza’.


The only thing the people from the Management Board could do is to stay out of it, to separate ‘Wyborcza’ into a separate company or to leave. They do neither the first, nor the second, nor the third.


We therefore declare: the management of “Gazeta Wyborcza” has completely lost trust in Agora’s Management Board and is submitting a vote of no confidence in it.


Adam Michnik (Editor-in-Chief), Jarosław Kurski (First Deputy Editor-in-Chief)


Photo credits: Dawid Żuchowicz, Michał Mutor / Agencja Wyborcza.pl

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POLAND: 100 days since Poland banned abortion; Polish women fighting back

By Sandrine Amiel


Euronews (12.05.2021) – https://bit.ly/2Rzz5zW – Maja, a 27-year-old from a small town in the northeastern Polish region of Podlasie, was neither financially nor emotionally ready for another child when she found out she was pregnant.


With legal abortion in her country not being an option, she contacted a group providing underground postal access to abortion pills and took them at home while breastfeeding her 11-month-old baby.


Another woman, Anita, wanted a child but learned when she was 13 weeks pregnant that due to a congenital defect, her baby would die within a few hours of birth – if not before.


Due to a recent change in Polish law that forbids women from terminating pregnancies even in cases of severe and irreversible fetal defects, the young woman was told to wait until she miscarried.


100 days since the Constitutional Court imposed a near-total ban on abortion, Maja and Anita’s stories have become the new normal in Poland.



Since January 27, the only exceptions to the total ban on abortion are in cases of rape or incest or when the mother’s health is in danger. Doctors who carry out abortions face up to 3 years in prison.


As a result, many Polish women are forced to continue pregnancies against their will, while others go abroad to have abortions. Others have abortions in secret at home.


The law sparked the country’s biggest protests in its post-communist era and drew international condemnation, including from the European Union.



Tens of thousands of women impacted


Abortion without Borders, an initiative founded in 2019 to support women in unintended pregnancies in Poland and abroad, says it has helped a total of 17,000 people access abortion, either at home – using pills – or abroad, in clinics, in the first six months after the Polish constitutional court ruling.


That is a significant increase compared to 2019 when 5,000 women turned to the group for help in terminating their pregnancies.


Kasia, 15, was one of those the charity helped. She was 12 weeks pregnant when she managed to tell her mother that she was expecting. She was worried about disappointing her mother but instead she contacted Abortion Without Borders on her daughter’s behalf.


Kasia had an abortion in the Netherlands last month.


Women Help Women, a group providing postal access to abortion pills, says it has responded to over 46,000 messages from Poland and provided help to 10,000 people.



‘Resilience and solidarity’


“It’s been devastating for women because it is clearly an oppressive system that has developed against their health and their lives,” said Irene Donadio, senior lead of strategy and partnership at the International Planned Parenthood Federation-European Network (IPPF-EN).


But she also noted the “amazing resistance and resilience among women in Poland with activists that have been engaged immediately in mobilising solidarity and raising funds to support women in situations of hardship.”


The Abortion Abroad initiative said it raised over €91,000 of funds in the six months after the ruling.


The funds were used, among other things, to cover the costs of abortion procedures and pills, pay for accommodation and travel as well as COVID tests.


Another example of cross-border solidarity is the group Ciocia Czesia (Auntie Czech), which was set up last year to help Polish women seek abortion in the neighbouring Czech Republic.


“We felt the need to do something,” Marta Machalowska from Ciocia Czesia told Euronews.


The group got in contact with similar collectives in Berlin and Vienna – Ciocia Basia and Ciocia Wienia – while launching a fundraising campaign to help cover the costs of the procedures, travel and accommodation.


Machalowska told Euronews that about 215 women contacted Ciocia Czesia thus far. The group provides them with legal and practical information in their language and puts them in touch with Polish-speaking medical staff.


In some cases, the group covers the costs of the procedure and travel completely, and in others only partially.


“Many private businesses would like to have a piece of this cake,” Machalowska noted, adding that a group was “against abortion tourism.”


Polish-Czech tensions


Accusations of abortion tourism were at the centre of an angry letter sent to the Czech government by a Polish diplomat in Prague, according to media reports.


The diplomat was quoted as writing: “From the point of view of Czech-Polish relations, we perceive it as unfortunate if legislative proposals to legalise commercial abortion tourism are openly justified by the intention to circumvent Polish legislation protecting unborn human life, and if those proposals have the purpose of encouraging Polish citizens to break Polish law.”


The letter came as the Czech parliament debated new legislation that would clarify the terms under which foreigners can get abortions in the country.


Euronews reached out to the Polish Foreign Ministry to confirm and comment on the letter but had received no response at the time of publication.


According to Czech media, the Czech government replied that Poland did not have the ability to interfere with internal legislative processes and that abortions on Polish women on its territory was in line with both domestic and EU law.


Machalowska explained that abortion was completely legal in the Czech Republic for up to 12 weeks of pregnancy for any person legally staying in the country, including EU citizens. In case of pathological reasons, the delay is extended to 24 weeks of pregnancy.


The only change in the bill intends to ensure that Czech doctors are fully legally covered when they perform abortions, she told Euronews.


In a statement published on Facebook in reaction to the Polish letter, the group said: “The visions and pleas of Polish politicians whose imaginations have been overwhelmed by values proclaimed from church pulpits will not have any impact here.”


Coronavirus challenges


Polish women seeking to terminate their pregnancies also go to neighbouring Germany, Slovakia, or further in Europe, to the Netherlands and the UK.


Yet coronavirus restrictions create additional obstacles for Polish women seeking abortion abroad.


“Covid is the biggest challenge,” Machalowska said, with travel rules and restrictions “changing almost every week.”


COVID testing and visa requirements also mean much higher costs for support groups working on already thin resources.


Due to social distancing rules, Ciocia Czesia activists have not been able to accompany the women to the hospital and their support was provided exclusively online, Machalowska told Euronews.



Escalating repression


Meanwhile, women’s rights defenders in Poland face threats and repression.


“There is this atmosphere of terror that state agents are trying to impose on anyone who doesn’t want to obey the fundamentalist agenda,” Donadio told Euronews, pointing to a report released last month by IPPF-EN, Human Rights Watch and CIVICUS.


“And we see that human rights activists are deprived of their freedom to protest, their freedom of assembly. They are charged for organising protests.”


As regards doctors, they are “clearly terrified with the changes because the government is putting a lot of pressure on hospitals and all on medical professionals. There is this immense threat of prosecution against doctors that is creating a massive chilling effect,” Donadio went on.


And the legislation might get even tougher in the future.


According to a letter, signed by 200 civil society organisations and sent to the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the EU, a new bill criminalising abortion was presented by citizens’ initiative.”


“If adopted, the bill would afford full legal protection to the fetus from the moment of conception and limit the grounds for legal care by banning abortion in cases where pregnancy results from sexual assault or if the health of a pregnant person is at risk, as provided for in the Family Planning Act currently in force. Abortion would be treated as homicide punishable with up to 25 years of imprisonment,” the letter read.


Focus on perinatal care


With abortion out of the equation, the Polish government is planning to implement a package of measures later this year to boost perinatal care.


It has said it will create more perinatal hospices as well as provide additional care for pregnant women with foetal defects within hospitals and offer a helpline with “family assistants” on hand to provide advice.


But according to human rights groups, “under the pretext of providing care to pregnant women whose fetuses have a ‘suspected or diagnosed lethal defect,’ [the initiative] would require them to be referred to antenatal hospices where their pregnancies would be monitored and their decisions about pregnancy influenced,” the letter sent to the EU Presidency read.



‘EU needs to respond’


Human rights groups say they want a bolder reaction from EU institutions to the situation in Poland.


“The European Union has been aware of the massive problems in Poland. I think that they have taken some steps in terms of infringement procedures and all that” but “it could be bolder. It could be stronger,” Donadio said.


“We want the general affairs council of the European Union to seriously treat the vast abuses of fundamental rights in Poland” at its June 22 meeting, she said.


“We would also like to see a strong stance on the constitutional tribunal,” she went on, because “the same tribunal that has adopted a decision that led to the almost total ban on abortion will now rule on the supremacy of EU law in Poland. So we risk that this politicised organ could give a blank check to this government to do whatever they want and that women will be sacrificed.”


“What we want to see is the use of the rule of conditionality of funding,” Donadio went on, with reference to a new mechanism that ties respect for the EU’s core democratic values with EU funding.


“This has to be used because now they are negotiating a gigantic financial package and we know that there are risks related to that, on how these incredible amounts of funding might be used to cement that authoritarian power in Poland.”


But it may take a while until the rule of law mechanism is triggered.


“We know that it will take about 3 years before the conditionality clause will be triggered if it is ever triggered,” Donadio noted.


“EU Member States should consider how to address the problem that they created the clause for because we don’t have three years to waste.”


Photo credits: Czarek Sokolowski/AP

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POLAND’s top court ousts ombudsman in rule of law standoff

Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal has ruled that an article of the Commissioner for Human Rights Act is unconstitutional, meaning Ombudsman Adam Bodnar – who repeatedly pointed out the government backsliding on the rule of law, freedom of the press, and democratic values – will have to vacate his post within three months.


By Aleksandra Krzysztoszek


Euractiv (16.04.2021) – https://bit.ly/3ahJ9nj – Parliament’s lower house known as the Sejm spared no time in electing PiS MP Bartłomiej Wróblewski to be the new ombudsman, though this still needs to be approved by the Senate.


The article in question states that the Commissioner for Human Rights, also known as the Ombudsman, can continue performing his duties after the end of his five-year term – which expired in September of last year – as long as parliament does not elect his successor.


Since the coalition government led by the Law and Justice (PiS) party has so far been unable to find a replacement who would be approved by the opposition-controlled Senate, the ruling party’s MPs have requested the decision be declared unconstitutional.


The party’s motion, which received support from the Sejm, as well as by the Attorney General and Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro, was also backed by the Constitutional Tribunal.


The ruling comes as no surprise since it was issued by a five-member panel composed exclusively of judges elected to the Constitutional Tribunal by the votes of the MPs of the right-wing coalition government – including the tribunal’s head Julia Przyłębska, wife of Poland’s ambassador in Berlin Andrzej Przyłębski. Przyłębska is known to have hosted PiS’ leader Jarosław Kaczyński at private dinners in her apartment.


Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović has already criticised the decision, tweeting that it “creates a worrying gap in the functioning of the Ombudsman institution in-btw [sic] terms and the protection of human rights in Poland”.


“A successor must urgently be selected fully respecting the Polish Constitution and law and international standards,” she added.


Wróblewskiwas was voted to be the new candidate for the Ombudsman position with 240 votes in the 460-seat chamber.


Opposition candidates Sławomir Patyra proposed by the Civic Coalition (KO) and the Polish People’s Party-Polish Coalition, as well as left-wing candidate Piotr Ikonowicz both failed to secure the majority. The opposition objected to Wróblewski’s candidacy, arguing that electing a party member contradicts the independence that comes with the Ombudsman’s role.


However, for Wróblewski to take up the role, he must be approved by the opposition-dominated Senate. Most experts have said this is highly unlikely.


Photo credits: EPA-EFE/RAFAL GUZ

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POLAND: Attack on media freedom, EU values in danger

The assault on free media is only one of the many fronts opened by the ruling camp in its war on Polish democracy and civil society. If my words might seem harsh, it is because we are past the point of cautious euphemisms. The attack on media freedom in Poland clears the way for an all-out assault on the very values on which the European Union was founded.

By Adam Michnik


Wyborcza (08.03.2021) – https://bit.ly/2PPkVJHHark! Peace! It was the owl that shrieked, the fatal bellman, Which gives the stern’st good-night. (William Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act 2, Scene 2)


Today, the owl’s shriek comes from the illiberal regimes that aim to dismantle the democratic institutions within the European Union. Poland is a prime example. I am the editor-in-chief of Gazeta Wyborcza. I have served in this capacity for thirty-two years now, since 1989, the year when Poland went through a peaceful and negotiated transition from a communist dictatorship to a democratic regime based on free elections. Gazeta Wyborcza was an important symbol of this monumental change – the first independent daily from Elbe to Vladivostok, free from censorship and political pressure. Other countries in the region followed in our footsteps.


Gazeta Wyborcza came to life as the voice of the Polish democratic opposition during the electoral campaign of 1989. We stood for fundamental values: media freedom, civic rights, independent judiciary, economic reform and market liberalization, transition from a one-party dictatorship to parliamentary democracy, and from a society ruled by fear to society based on freedom.


Our success went hand-in-hand with Poland’s economic and political transformation. After many decades of authoritarianism, Poles finally got to experience what it meant to live in a free country founded upon the rule of law. Now, however, our victory from three decades ago is under assault.


Free media – the enemies of authoritarian regimes


Poland, together with a number of other countries in Europe, is witnessing a creeping authoritarian coup. The rule of law is being transformed into the rule of coterie of a single party. The Constitutional Tribunal, prosecutor’s office, police, and secret services were all turned into loyal subjects serving at the pleasure of the ruling party that ironically calls itself “Law and Justice”. Public media broadcasters and have been transformed into tools of shameless propaganda similar to that employed by Putin in Russia and Erdogan in Turkey. Independent media outlets are cast as enemies of the state and face hateful attacks that mirror those uttered on numerous occasions by Donald Trump. We are treated as enemies for the simple reason that we are independent and have the courage to speak truth to power.


Let us once again turn to Shakespeare, this time to the famous monologue of Horatio from Hamlet:

So shall you hear 

Of carnal, bloody, and unnatural acts, 

Of accidental judgments, casual slaughters, 

Of deaths put on by cunning and forced cause, 

And, in this upshot, purposes mistook 

Fall’n on th’ inventors’ heads. All this can I 

Truly deliver. 


The purpose behind the machinations of the ruling camp is clear to see. It wants to ensure that no one is allowed to bring light to “unnatural acts”. It needs everything and everyone to operate as the rulers intend.


It is for this reason that the governing majority is meticulously, step by step, dismantling the safety valves of our democratic order. Mátyás Rákosi, the Hungarian communist dictator known as “little Stalin”, called it the salami tactics – destroying the dissent one thin slice at a time.


It bears repeating – independent media are called as enemies of the regime and openly treated as such. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki shamelessly observed that 80 percent of the Polish media “belongs to our enemies”. What he meant was that these media enjoy even a shred of editorial freedom.


Jarosław Kaczyński’s regime regularly launches vicious attacks against media that dare to criticize the ruling camp – Gazeta Wyborcza among them. Government officials, members of the ruling camp and the state-owned companies bring never-ending lawsuits against journalists who investigate instances of abuse of power, demanding massive legal damages and removal of articles that incriminate them. Those strategic lawsuits against public participation, known as SLAPPs, are meant to intimidate and silence independent media. At Gazeta Wyborcza, we have faced more than 50 SLAPP suits already. A week does not go by without a new lawsuit against us.


After Law and Justice came to power in 2015, state institutions and companies controlled by the ruling camp terminated all their subscriptions of media critical of the government and pulled out all advertisements – including those related to public tenders and public service announcements – from these outlets. This party line was not altered even during the current pandemic, when reaching out to the broadest possible audience was of critical importance for public health. Meanwhile, state coffers are wide open for media that happily espoused official propaganda. Over the last five years, they received more than 1.3 bn euros in advertising revenue from public and state-owned entities alone.


Critical journalists are called out and intimidated by these state-controlled propaganda outlets. They rile up their followers by accusing independent reporters of serving foreign regimes and their interests. Such a narrative is meant to deprive us of our credibility.


“Re-Polonization” takes inspiration from Putin’s playbook


As independent media, we are fortunate to have the support of our readers, our listeners, and our viewers. The ruling camp cannot abide this. We uncovered several attempts at media invigilation orchestrated by the secret services. Journalists working for independent media have been harassed and teargassed by the police while they were reporting on anti-government protests.


Over the last years, the ruling camp kept ominously referring to the need to take over “enemy” media so that they finally serve “Polish” interests. It has now delivering on this threat. In December, the state-owned oil company PKN Orlen, the largest in Central and Eastern Europe by market capitalization, purchased Polska Press, which controls a large majority of the regional media market in Poland. The CEO of Orlen joined the Law and Justice party in 2009 and had virtually no executive-level management experience before 2016. He owes his meteoric career rise exclusively to being a loyal servant of Jarosław Kaczyński. The acquisition of Polska Press by Orlen is eerily reminiscent of Gazprom’s takeover of NTW television broadcaster in 2001 at the request of the Kremlin. Its purpose is to dismantle editorial independence in Poland, not to preserve it.


Orlen also recently acquired the second largest press distributor and newsstands chain in Poland. What we are witnessing is a blatant attempt to muzzle free media.


Law and Justice-controlled state antitrust agency immediately greenlit the merger between Orlen and Polska Press despite the risks it posed to the competitive equilibrium on the regional media market. The same agency took two years to investigate the acquisition of private radio broadcaster EuroZet by Agora, the owner of Gazeta Wyborcza, before abruptly blocking the transaction while the antitrust proceedings were still ongoing. Both decisions were politically motivated and aimed at strengthening government propaganda at the expense of independent media.


The recent proposal of a new media tax on advertising turnover is a clear attempt to financially bleed private outlets suffering amid the economic downturn caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and force them into the arms of the ruling camp. If it succeeds, Poland will join the ranks of Russia and Hungary – countries with virtually no independent media.


The fight for the future of the European Union  


The assault on free media is only one of the many fronts opened by the ruling camp in its war on Polish democracy and civil society. After the current regime took control over the prosecutor’s office, the Constitutional Tribunal and the Supreme Court, Poland is no longer governed by the rule of law. We are being transformed into a single-party state and thus we are becoming the “sick man of the European community”. The struggle that is taking place in Poland is a battle over the future of the European Union. Other EU member states do not lack politicians who see Kaczyński’s Poland as an inspiration, not as a warning.


If my words might seem harsh, it is because we are past the point of cautious euphemisms. The attack on media freedom in Poland clears the way for an all-out assault on the very values on which the European Union was founded.


The aggressive rhetoric employed by the governments in Warsaw and Budapest is not too dissimilar from the narrative espoused by radical proponents of Brexit; it would fit in well with the authoritarian mob assaulting the Capitol on the 5th of January. Words can cut as deep as knives; they can serve to harass and persecute people; they can lead to bloodshed. Those who attack independent media hope to murder language as a tool for finding truth. We can see it in how they construct false narratives about Polish history, Polish culture, and Polish tradition. History showed us what happens to states and nations who do not stand up to fight for their democracies. Without those willing to defend them, democracies are always lost.


We are facing many more challenges ahead. Polish authorities are limiting the freedom of academic research and plan to rewrite schoolbooks. They continue to normalize and glorify hate speech rooted in xenophobia and homophobia, to block freedom of access to public information, to create ever new hurdles for NGOs that do not toe the party line. By standing for the most important of all European values – freedom – in Poland, you are defending the European Union, the project and promise that remains the beacon of hope for all of us.


Photo credits: Adam Stępień / Agencja Gazeta

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