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Following the reelection of president Andrzej Duda, the Law and Justice will have full control over the legislative and the executive power over the next three years. While Duda struck a conciliatory tone during his speech right after the exit poll results were published, two recent interviews given by Jarosław Kaczyński, the PiS chairman and the unofficial ruler of Poland, were more ominous. It is clear that the ruling camp’s first priority is to go after independent media. 

In his first interview given following the sitting president’s electoral victory, Kaczyński spent a lot of time discussing the media sector in Poland. His main message was rather explicit: “media in Poland have to be Polish”. He argued that Duda’s reelection was achieved “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 ”.

The slogan of “external interference” has been one of the key messages of the ruling camp during the final stretch of the electoral campaign. After the daily “Fakt”, owned by the German-Swiss Ringier Axel-Springer group, published an article offering case information related to a paedophile pardoned by President Duda, the latter 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, Kaczyński spoke about 'foreign interference in the Polish elections', while the state-controlled TVP was digging for dirt on Katarzyna Kozłowska and Aldona Toczek, the editor-in-chief and deputy editor-in-chief  of 'Fakt'.

When outlining his vision for the Polish media sector, Kaczyński claimed that “we cannot prohibit any media from taking part in what we believe are externally inspired campaigns 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 truthfully, that such media play a larger role than at the moment”. 

The key to achieving this is for the ruling camp to mobilize both the state resources and those of businessmen loyal to it and buy out a large number of private media outlets. A law on media repolonization will stipulate that any media can have no more than a certain percentage of foreign ownership (the discussed options vary from 15 to 30 percent), or otherwise they have to find a Polish buyer. Repolonization is meant to target mostly, but not only, local newspapers.

The second leg of Law and Justice’s plan to transform the media sector to its taste is to be achieved through the law on deconcentration. Deconcentration is a weapon aimed at the largest private media companies - past a certain market share, 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"). 

To better understand Kaczyński’s plan, it is enough to look at the Czech media sector, which the leader of PiS mentioned in an interview as being exemplary .

According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the Czech Republic ranks 40th in the world in terms of media freedom. In 2013, it was ranked 16th. Since then, it saw a dramatic decline after it became apparent how much pressure their owners are exerting on the editorial offices, which has led, among other things, to self-censorship by journalists (according to the latest RSF report, this phenomenon is getting ever more intense in the Czech Republic year to year). A series of transactions in which prominent Czech businessmen acquired major media outlets led to a sector in which editorial offices are completely dependent on oligarchs and politicians and serve as pawns in their game of interests.

The law on repolonization is meant to bring the Czech template to Poland, while the one on deconcentration aims to ensure that no media company will be strong enough to stand up to the government. This is especially important given that the ruling camp’s current way of silencing independent media is based on a pattern of constant legal harassment. 

As Adam Stasiak and Paulina Milewska reported last week, Gazeta Wyborcza itself is currently facing more than 55 lawsuits initiated by the ruling camp in an effort to freeze the freedom of speech . To help us deal with the onslaught of legal actions, we have been recently granted financial support from the Media Freedom Rapid Response, a body in charge of tracking, monitoring and responding to threats and violations of press and media freedom in the European Union and its candidate countries. 

If you want to know more, please join us at: wyborcza.pl/newsfrompoland. 

Thank you for being with us. There is no freedom without solidarity.

Miłosz Wiatrowski

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