Polish President Andrej Duda is seen at EU headquarters in Brussels on February 7, 2022. CPJ urged the EU to push Polish leaders to respect press freedom. (AP/John Thys)

EU must urge Polish leaders to respect press freedom

Brussels February 17, 2022 – European Union ministers should prioritize press freedom reform in Poland when the EU General Affairs Council meets to discuss rule of law concerns in the country, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.

“When Poland attacks press freedom, it makes a mockery of European Union values,” said Tom Gibson, CPJ’s European Union representative. “The EU General Affairs Council should issue a clear message that Polish authorities are failing to respect press freedom, and should call for concrete reforms.”

On February 22, the General Affairs Council is scheduled to meet as part of Article 7 of the Treaty of the European Union, which allows for infringement procedures against EU member states that do not respect the rule of law. Even though the EU launched Article 7 procedures against Poland in 2017 in response to the country’s controversial judicial reforms, Polish authorities have consistently rejected EU recommendations and rulings from the European Court of Justice, the EU’s highest court.

CPJ has documented how Polish authorities have turned the country’s public service media into an effective propaganda mouthpiece for the ruling Law and Justice party, and the 2020 acquisition of Polska Press by state-owned fuel giant PKN Orlen led to critical journalists being pushed out of independent news outlets. Legal threats and smear campaigns are a daily menace to outspoken journalists, and journalists covering the migration crisis on the Belarusian border have been detained and harassed. Journalists’ families have also recently received death threats.