The chairman of the Law and Justice party announced his intention to bring order to the media market during an interview with the Polish Press Agency PAP. The purchase of 20 regional newspapers and the removal of the editors-in-chief of the tabloid "Fakt", the weekly "Newsweek" and the largest online media portal "Onet" are among the main goals of the post-electoral offensive of the Law and Justice party targeting the independent media.
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Under the slogan of "repolonization", the ruling camp intends to subjugate the editorial offices as well as insert its loyalists into managerial positions.

The slogan 'media in Poland should be Polish' was used by Kaczyński during his first interview  after Andrzej Duda's reelection. He gave it to the Polish Press Agency which, together with the TVP and Polish Radio, is part of the so-called national media. The Law and Justice party has full control over all three of them.

Kaczyński portrayed the victory of Duda as resulting from "fighting alone against all". - We won despite an extremely tough campaign, one in which all the rules were often broken. The assault on us was coordinated by a powerful media front, also inspired from the outside - insinuated the the leader of PiS.

In his opinion, "there are groups of people in Poland who believe that in Poland someone is attacking democracy or civil liberties, because this is what a large part of the media is telling them".

Can this be seen as an announcement of a quick crackdown on these media? One of the questions that Kaczyński was asked was the following:  "Some of the media feel threatened, fearing repolonization. They say that the media cannot be disciplined by any law". Kaczyński answered that the ruling camp has no intention of disciplining anyone. 

However, he followed this by saying that  "the situation in the Polish media is quite strange in comparison to other countries, including those close to us, like the Czech Republic. They had a significant rearranging of the media market and we also think that it should change here. The media in Poland should be Polish, first of all. We cannot prohibit any media from taking part in what we believe are externally inspired campaigns, to destroy some, and not to notice others, to present a completely false image of Poland and the world. What we can do is to ensure that there are more media outlets that present the world more realistically, more truthfully, that such media play a larger role than at the moment. We will try to act in this direction".

Kaczyński went on to reassure that "nobody should think that we are counting on TVN to become a pro-government television at some point or that it will cease to exist". - No," he claimed. - We know that it will remain part of the Polish media scene, that it will be critical of us, but maybe it will be possible to ensure that some standards - not imposed by force, not by legal restrictions, but by certain rules that everyone accepts - will apply.

Kaczyński claimed that there are no legislative initiatives concerning the media sector at the moment. 

- But I don't rule out that they will actually be undertaken. We will try to do our best to normalize the situation in this respect, but we will not do anything that would undermine the freedom of the media - Kaczyński assured.

Meanwhile, the projects of deconcentration and repolonization of the media have been in ministerial drawers for a long time (we will return to them below).

The most heated atmosphere can be encountered at the 'Fakt' editorial office. In the last days of the campaign, the tabloid was brutally attacked by the entire ruling camp after it published the details of the verdict concerning the paedophile pardoned by President Duda. - Other media also wrote critically about it, but for Jarosław Kaczyński "Fakt" - as a tabloid - represents the mood in the Polish province and the Law and Justice voters in cities. That is why these articles aroused such a strong reaction - one of the politicians of the ruling party told us.

"Fakt", or "We will not let Germans tell us what to do"

The "Fakt" was thus attacked with heavy accusations, in which the main argument was that the owner of the newspaper is Ringier Axel Springer. The company is German-Swiss, but for the Law and Justice it is simply "German". Andrzej Duda growled at a rally that 'we will not let the Germans elect our president', the chargé d'affaires of Germany was called to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kaczynski spoke about 'foreign interference in the Polish elections' and TVP looked for dirt on Katarzyna Kozłowska and Aldona Toczek, the editor-in-chief and deputy editor-in-chief  of 'Fakt'. 

In the past, PiS never had any serious plans to buy out the media outlets belonging to Ringier Axel Springer, but it did try to influence the editorial line. - They were making overtures to the management in Poland and Germany. They used their contacts to relay threats and promises - one of the editors of the tabloid told us. For Law and Justice the ideal editor in chief would be Grzegorz Jankowski, who guided "Fakt" from its creation and never hid his right-wing sympathies. His removal in 2014 was perceived by the Law and Justice party as an effect of political interference of the then ruling PO.

According to our sources, the victory of Duda means trouble for the current chief editors of "Fakt". - The pressure of the authorities will intensify now and it is possible that the company might give in and hire someone more acceptable for the Law and Justice party - we hear from a journalist working for 'Fakt'.

Tomasz Lis, the head of 'Newsweek', has been a thorn in the authorities’ side for years. He and the weekly he runs are among the harshest critics of the Law and Justice party. But in the opinion of our informants, the position of Lis is not threatened because Kaczyński's party” will leave Newsweek for the time being”.

The same will not apply to Onet, the largest Polish online medium, which in recent years has got under the Law and Justice skin on several occasions. Onet, which also belongs to Ringier Axel Springer, may be part of the government's "deconcentration" plans. "Deconcentration" together with "repolonization" are to be the main pillars of the ruling camp’s plan to "regain" the media.

Kaczynski gives the green light

Since spring 2016, PiS has been talking about deconcentration and repolonization of the media. - We should take a step-by-step approach, obviously in accordance with the rules of civilised countries, i.e. by buying these media, making them Polish,' said President Kaczyński in May 2016. In his opinion, it was unacceptable in a sovereign country that 'the media are largely in the hands of external owners and that they are being used for political ends'. He did not provide any evidence. 

For the Law and Justice party, every critical publication in the 'foreign' media is proof of 'external interference'. The journalists working in the stigmatized editorial offices from time to time protest against the authorities denying them Polishness. This has no effect. In July 2017, the president returned to the subject, saying that "we are dealing with a morbid concentration of the media," and his party will be deconcentrating it for the benefit of Poland and its citizens.

Kaczynski returned to the topic during an interview with the religious fundamentalist TV Trwam broadcaster last week. He said: - We need to change the situation in the media. We don't want a decision to be made somewhere outside Poland's borders that a given media outlet supports one of the presidential candidates while at the same time it tries to destroy the other by resorting to the most disgraceful methods. The authorities in Poland cannot agree that a part of the national nervous system is in foreign hands.

For our sources in the ruling camp, Kaczyński's statement signifies that he is giving the green light to "settle once and for all the matter of the media", which are owned by "strangers". - Now is the best time. We have won and we have fresh memories of who wanted to destroy us,' a PiS MP told us.

Repolonization, or "domestication"

The head of the team that works on the means of transforming the media market is Deputy Minister of Culture Paweł Lewandowski, former expert of the Republican Foundation. He is supported, among others, by representatives of the National Broadcasting Council and the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection. The pro-government revolution on the private media market is to be guaranteed by two acts - one on repolonization and one on deconcentration. The first one (which is gracefully called "domestication of the media" by the Law and Justice party) is to hit mainly the local press. The second is to weaken large corporations.

- When we talk about repolonisation, we think about transforming the media so that they represent the Polish interest, that they are with and for Poles - this is how the head of the parliamentary committee on culture and a member of the National Media Council, Elżbieta Kruk, a member of the Law and Justice party, sees repolonisation.

According to the leaks, the legislation will apply, for example, to Polska Presse, a publishing house belonging to the German Passau group - the owner of 20 regional dailies in 15 provinces and popular local websites. If the repolonization law came into force, shares in these titles could be bought by e.g. one of the Polish banks or a Polish entrepreneur for a loan taken out in a Polish bank. 

Based on our sources, Law and Justice has already prepared initial plans of how such an ownership transformation would look like. The managerial positions would be taken by pro-government journalists, especially from the media that are not doing well on the market. Repolonization should be instantaneous, these magazines would be invaluable for the party before the next elections and during the upcoming crisis.

Ever since 2016, the Law and Justice party is trying to figure out how much foreign capital (15, 20, 30 percent? - there are different options) can be in the Polish media. Any medium which has a higher level of foreign ownership will have to find a Polish buyer. Deputy Minister of Culture Jarosław Sellin strongly supports both repolonization and deconcentration. - Poland has made mistakes over the last quarter of a century to allow such a high concentration of ownership, especially of foreign capital in the press, especially in regional and local media - Sellin has been repeating for months.

"The freezing effect"

Deconcentration, on the other hand, is a weapon aimed at other private media - one owner will not be able to own outlets active in different media sectors - TV, newspapers, radio, internet portals. This is meant to weaken mainly TVN and Agora (the publisher of "Gazeta Wyborcza").

- When it comes to TVN, it provides an anti-Polish, pro-gender and neo-Marxist message. From the very beginning of its existence it has waged a war on Polish raison d'etat and Polish national interests - this is what Stanisław Pięta, an MP from PiS, said in 2017.

After a personal scandal, Pięta had to leave the party, but the ideas he had voiced remained. This was visible during the presidential campaign which had just ended. Politicians belonging to the ruling camp - Beata Mazurek and Antoni Macierewicz - accused TVN of having been founded by the communist secret service and having connections with the disgraced former military counterintelligence forces. They did not provide any evidence. 

Their allegations led to a strong reaction from the US ambassador Georgette Mosbacher, who defended the independence of the media, especially since TVN is owned by the American group Discovery. As long as TVN has political protection from across the ocean, the station is unlikely to be threatened by the authorities. During the interview for TV Trwam, Kaczyński answered a question from one of the viewers. The viewer demanded the nationalisation of TVN: - If the man who made the call thinks that TVN can be nationalised, he is wrong. You cannot do it, first of all, and secondly, we are not interested - he assured. But it did not stop the chairman of Law and Justice from joining Macierewicz's accusations: - I have no doubt about where TVN came from.

In the Law and Justice party we can hear that in the case of deconcentration the variant proposed by the National Broadcasting Council is likely to be adopted: a dominant position is one in which the company has a 30% share in one of the markets - television, radio or online. A company with a dominant position will have to limit its shares in other media.

The experts emphasize that the very announcements of changes on the private media market may have the so-called freezing effect - the media will think several times before informing about abuses of power, since their future will depend on whether the government and the parliamentary majority decide to go after the media sector.

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    Re TVN: Kaczyński would need Trump's approval to buy it from Discovery, Inc., but so far US Ambassador Georgette Mosbacher has strongly defended TVN, meaning that the State Department continues its support for American business and press freedom in Poland. But, Discovery Inc. is led by a CEO who is an avowed Democrat, while Kaczyński through Duda has sought close ties with Trump. At some point, PiS will be seekng a favour from Trump, especially if Polish-Americans continue to strongly support him in the US (PiS has strong support from Poles living in the Chicago area, and may openly support Trump among them). This week, several noted senior staff have left TVN, which suggests that they may be seeing the writing on the wall.
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