Poland defends its new media law as fair amid EU concerns

AP News
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Posted: Jan 03, 2016 1:00 PM

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland on Sunday defended its new media law as fair, voicing surprise at the European Union's negative reaction to the legislation.

Last week, Polish lawmakers approved legislation by the new ruling party that ends the terms of the current heads of state-run radio and television, who were appointed by the previous establishment. The new law also gives the government the authority to make new appointments.

President Andrzej Duda is expected to sign it into law soon, as the ruling conservative and EU-skeptic Law and Justice party is rushing to make major state and social reforms it promised in the presidential and parliamentary campaigns last year. Their pace and scope has led to rallies for and against across Poland, and has drawn the attention of EU leaders.

European Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said in remarks published Sunday in German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung that he was concerned about media independence in Poland.

"There are many reasons to activate the mechanisms of rule of law and monitor Warsaw," Oettinger was quoted as saying.

Hours later, the European Commission said it would debate the rule of law in Poland at its Jan. 13 session, out of concern over the media legislation. It wasn't immediately clear what steps the commission could take next.

Duda's spokesman, Marek Magierowski, said the changes in the legislation were necessary, because for eight years under the previous pro-EU government, state broadcasters were "deeply one-party media" with "not a penny's worth of pluralism," but "not a single EU commissioner or EU lawmaker expressed any concern over the fact."

Four directors of state TV channels and programs resigned last week in protest of the new law, while state radio is airing the EU and Polish national anthems before news broadcasts to stress attachment to EU values.

Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski argued that the government, which took office in November, is moving fast with institutional reforms because "we simply want to cure our state of a few illnesses, so it can recover again."

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Frank Jordans in Berlin contributed to this report.