Polish top journalists oppose fine on US-owned broadcaster

FeaturesAssociated Press

The jury of Poland's main journalism award has condemned the imposition by a state regulator of a heavy fine on a private American-owned television station for its coverage of 2016 anti-government protests.

The jurors of the Grand Press award also called on the regulator, the National Broadcasting Council, known as KRRiT, to cancel the nearly 1.5 million zlotys ($420,000) fine it imposed Monday on the TVN24 all-news station, that is owned by the U.S. Scripps Networks Interactive.

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They said late Tuesday that the fine could be interpreted as an "attempt at intimidating the broadcaster whose message does not suit the ruling team" and undermined the media's foundation, the freedom of speech.

The U.S. State Department has also expressed concern saying the decision "appears to undermine media freedom in Poland, a close ally and fellow democracy."

The regulator alleged that TVN 24 promoted "activity that was in conflict with the law" and favored unsafe behavior in its reports from massive protests a year ago that were held inside the parliament and in the streets.

The KRRiT expert whose opinion was the basis for the fine, Hanna Karp, insisted that TVN24 failed to provide a balanced commentary when it was showing scenes of violence as the police clashed with the crowd, which could have has a chilling effect on the viewers.

Speaking with the wpolityce.pl news portal Karp said that journalists are obliged to explain images they are showing and should not "escalate or instigate for some tragic moment."

The station said the opinion was "unfair and neglectful to the extreme" and that it would appeal the penalty.

Poland's ruling Law and Justice party took firm control of state-owned media after winning power in 2015, and appears to be seeking greater control of private media now.