Poland's media regulator fined a private news channel nearly 1.5 million zlotys ($420,000) Monday for what it alleged was unfair reporting during a political crisis last year, but some saw the penalty as an attack on press freedom.
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The National Broadcasting Council said in a statement that all-news station TVN24's coverage of street protests over three days last December violated Polish law by "propagating illegal activities and promoting behavior that threatens security."
TVN SA, the owner of TVN24, said it would appeal what it called an "unfounded" penalty. It said the fine was based on an "extremely biased and careless report" by someone linked to a Catholic pro-government media organization.
TVN also maintained that its coverage at the time was balanced and fair, noting it had carried comments by the ruling party leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, even as it covered the anti-government protesters.
The fine was imposed amid reports that the ruling Law and Justice party seeks a state takeover of TVN24, an influential station that is part of a network of channels owned by an American company, Scripps Networks Interactive.
Kaczynski's party has already turned Poland's state media into vehicles for Law and Justice propaganda during its two years in power and has indicated it hopes to rein in independent and foreign-owned media next.
Kamila Gasiuk-Pihowicz, a lawmaker for centrist opposition party Modern, party, called it a "brutal attack on journalistic independence."
The protests last December broke out over attempts by the ruling party to limit media access to parliament. Opposition lawmakers staged a weekslong sit-in until the party dropped the plans.
Scripps Networks Interactive, based in Knoxville, Tennessee, is being bought out by Discovery Communications.