25-29 Dec 2017

Top Polish TV news channel fined 350,000 euros for doing its job

The National Broadcasting Council (KRRiT), the body designed to protect the freedom of speech, has imposed a draconian fine on TVN for reporting on last year's parliamentary crisis. Here's why.

Zuzanna Piechowicz
Zuzanna Piechowicz Tok FM, Poland
Source: Tok FM
Top Polish TV news channel fined 350,000 euros
for doing its job - NewsMavens
Blokada sejmowej mównicy 2016.

Why this story matters:

politics, media, illiberalism

What made TVN -- Poland's largest privately owned news station -- deserve a 1.5 million zloty (350,000 euros) fine in the eyes of the current government?

Apparently, the journalists from TVN 24 -- a 24 hr news channel -- "propagated illegal activities and promoted behaviors that threaten security" when reporting on opposition protests, which took place last December in Sejm - Poland's lower house of parliament.

To show their dissent against the actions of the ruling party PiS -- which, for instance, restricted the media's access to the proceedings in Sejm -- MPs from PO and Nowoczesna parties blocked the podium in the plenary hall. Simultaneously, civil protests outside of the Sejm gained strength.  

The academic framework for the decision of KRRiT was provided by dr Hanna Karp, lecturer at the College of Social and Media Culture in Toruń. Incidentally, it is a higher education facility run by the ruling party’s preacher, father Tadeusz Rydzyk. Karp is also a columnist for "Exorcist" magazine. 

“It is unacceptable that a television station changes into a political outlet that calls on their audience to break out of the legal order and attack politicians,” Karp told the right-wing opinion website wpolityce.pl.

This logic is reminiscent of the 1980's in Poland when, under martial law, publishing content that could inspire protest was also penalized.

For the first time in the 25-year-long history of the National Broadcasting Council, a station was punished for the content of information programs. “This is a clear intrusion into the field of ​​freedom of speech,” the former chairman of the Polish Television, Juliusz Braun, told TOK FM.

The fine is also the highest penalty ever imposed by the National Council.

"It’s a draconian punishment and a clear attempt at silencing the free media," Krzysztof Luft, a former KRRiT member, commented in TOK FM.

The fine was even criticized by Stanisław Karczewski, the speaker of the senate and… member of the ruling party PiS.

TVN itself refuses to accept the penalty. "The report, which was supposed to prove that TVN24 promoted illegal activities and behaviors threatening security (…) during the parliamentary crisis in December last year, is written in a biased way to prove the thesis of the government," TVN statement reads.

TVN can now legally appeal this decision. Let’s only hope they will make it before the new laws on the judiciary, currently awaiting signature by the president, come into force.

Details from the story:

  • The National Broadcasting Council (KRRiT) imposed a fine of 1.5 million zlotys (350,000 euros) on one of the largest Polish television stations, TVN.
  • The fine is for "propagated illegal activities and promoted behaviors that threaten security" when reporting on opposition protests, which took place last December in Sejm - Poland's lower house of parliament.
  • It is the largest fine ever given by KRRiT
  • TVN can now appeal the decision
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