WARSAW (Reuters) – Poland’s ruling party will have the task of “repolonising” the country’s media if it wins elections scheduled for October or November, a deputy prime minister said.
The Law and Justice party (PiS has long suggested that it would try to bring foreign-owned media outlets under Polish control, leading to opposition accusations the party wants muzzle the press.
“A self-respecting nation and a self-respecting people cannot allow most of the media to be in foreign hands, and this is a task our government faces if we remain in power in the next term,” Jaroslaw Gowin said in comments reported by state-run news agency PAP on Wednesday evening.
In Hungary, associates of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a PiS ally, have gained control over much of the media and his Fidesz party has taken total control of state media, drawing international accusations that they are weakening freedom of speech.
Similarly, on coming to power in 2015, PiS moved swiftly to take control of state broadcaster TVP, whose news coverage is criticised by opposition politicians for being biased towards the government.
Poland has faced criticism from the United States, its key ally in the light of increased Russian assertiveness in central and eastern Europe, over previous moves against privately owned media.
In 2018 Poland back-tracked on a fine imposed on private news channel TVN24 over its coverage of protests in parliament in 2016 after condemnation from the U.S. State Department, amid speculation the Polish state may take over the news channel.
TVN, the parent company of TVN24, is owned by U.S. media group Discovery.
Germany’s Axel Springer is also present in Poland, owning the Polish edition of Newsweek and tabloid Fakt, which are both often critical of the government.
“Why should we assume that German owners are worse patriots than us,” Gowin said. “When there is a conflict of interests between Poland and Germany, these newspapers represent the German point of view and German interests.”
(Reporting by Alan Charlish)