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– There’s nothing to be afraid of, mr. President. Come join me on Thursday in a debate organized by independent media [TVN, Onet and Wirtualna Polska]. Sure, unlike last time, you might not know the questions in advance, but it will only make for a more lively discussion. Or let’s do an open format and have an entire spectrum of journalist, left to right, ask us the questions. Polish citizens deserve to have their questions answered. Mr. President, I urge you to join me in an unbiased debate! –Rafał Trzaskowski said on Wednesday at a campaign rally in Szczecinek.

It was a reference to the pseudo-debate aired on the Polish public television channel TVP just before the initial round of presidential election. The questions were nothing more than thinly veiled attacks on Rafał Trzaskowski. 

„Rafał Trzaskowski’s Television”

On Wednesday, president Duda visited West Pomerania (zachodniopomorskie). At a campaign rally, he told his supporters- It’s simply inacceptable; mr. Trzaskowski’s television arbitrarily decides on a date and expects me to show up. We can’t give preferential treatment to some broadcasters and not to others. That’s why I decided to turn the invitation down and proposed that all major broadcasters organize a joint debate instead. Foreign media want to protect mr. Trzaskowski? I wonder in whose interest? Let me tell you, it’s not only about supporting mr. Trzaskowski; what they also care about is advertising revenue.

On Wednesday, TVN requested that both candidates confirm their participation in the debate in writing until 8:00 pm. While Rafał Trzaskowski confirmed his presence immediately, one of Duda’s key staffers told us that the president is definitely not showing up. It looks like the debate is not taking place after all.

Duda turned down the invitation

Shortly after the 8:00 pm deadline, chief editors of TVN, Onet and Wirtualna Polska published a joint statement that read: “We went to great lengths to ensure that the debate is democratic, transparent and unbiased. At the same time, we made sure that for the first time ever, the debate will be accessible online to every Polish citizen, at home and abroad, who wishes to watch it. We also wanted both candidates to join us in discussing the specific details and rules of the debate. Unfortunately, Andrzej Duda’s staff turn down our invitation and ultimately informed us that the president won’t participate in the debate. Thus, we regret to inform you that the presidential debate scheduled for tomorrow cannot take place”.

On Tuesday, it still seemed possible that the presidential candidates might face each other off in two different debates- one on Thursday, and another one, arranged by the public broadcaster TVP in Końskie, on Monday. The choice of place is not a coincidence. In March, Andrzej Duda went there to sign the “Railway plus” act; it’s the same place where the president received a clear majority of votes in the first round of election.

No response from TVP

The public television broadcaster TVP, a propaganda mouthpiece for PiS and its presidential candidate, doesn’t provide any details. On its website, we can only read that: “The debate will mirror the American presidential Town Hall Debate format”. Unofficially, the audience will consist of residents of Końskie, and people will have a chance to ask the candidates direct questions.

We asked TVP about the audience, who will get to choose it, and who will prepare the questions. So far, no response.

We also inquired whether TVP has considered organizing a joint debate with TVN and Polsat (on Monday, president Duda Tweeted that he would be willing to participate in such a debate) and whether it has already consulted the idea with the private broadcasters. No response either.

What’s more, Rafał Trzaskowski’s staffers told us that the public television hasn’t reached out to them yet regarding the debate and its details. - We refuse to make any comments about something that’s not even official- one of the candidate’s staffers responded.

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