Were Minister Sienkiewicz’s actions regarding public media legal? Adam Bodnar spoke up

Luc Williams

On Friday, a meeting of the Parliamentary Committee for Justice and Human Rights was convened at the request of a group of MPs, during which the Minister of Justice presented information on the dismissal of company authorities. Telewizja Polska SA, Polish Press Agency SA, Polish Radio SA and putting them into liquidation.

According to Zbigniew Bogucki (PiS), who represents the applicants, a similar situation in the Polish media “has not occurred since the communists turned off television signals.” “You repeated it, unfortunately. You are part of the worst possible history. We would like to hear from the minister what is the reaction to the illegal actions of Mr. Sienkiewicz when it comes to public media, changes in the management boards and supervisory boards of public media. Are you, as a minister, justice, but also as prosecutor general has taken any action in this regard?” – He asked.

Responding to the doubts of parliamentarians, Bodnar pointed out that “in 2023, after the elections, we encountered a situation in which public media were affected by extreme politicization.”

The Minister of Justice emphasized that the resolution of the Sejm “in connection with the provisions of the Commercial Companies Code provides the basis for the action taken by Minister Sienkiewicz.” “I am aware that the Sejm resolution is not of a normative nature, it is declaratory in nature. However, I believe that the Sejm resolution, combined with the ownership rights of the Minister of Culture and National Heritage, gives the right to take specific actions in the context of the functioning of public media.” – he said.

Prosecutor’s proceedings

Bodnar informed that the District Prosecutor’s Office in Warsaw is conducting proceedings regarding the events at TVP and TVP Info at Pl. Warsaw insurgents. “Also, at the District Prosecutor’s Office in Warsaw, proceedings are underway regarding the abuse of powers by the Minister of Culture and National Heritage (…) and there is also information about the presentation of charges against a notary public. I try to perform my tasks as the Prosecutor General in such a way as not to interfere in what is happening in criminal cases, because I believe that the Prosecutor General should be as far away from criminal cases as possible. This is what the independence of the prosecutor’s office should be, so that prosecutors can make independent decisions in these cases, he concluded.

Answering the MPs’ questions, the head of the Ministry of Justice emphasized, among other things, that “the functioning of the public media should be restored so that they serve the society and so that the interests of society, which were reflected in the Sejm resolution of December, are implemented.” He also recalled that “going into liquidation is one thing and permanent liquidation is another.” Bodnar declared to provide detailed answers to questions regarding public media in writing.

Resolution of the Sejm

On December 19, the Sejm adopted a resolution “on the restoration of legal order and the impartiality and reliability of the public media and the Polish Press Agency”, calling on the State Treasury to take corrective actions. A day later, the Ministry of Culture announced that the Minister of Culture and National Heritage Bartłomiej Sienkiewicz, as the body exercising the ownership rights of the State Treasury, acting on the basis of the provisions of the Commercial Companies Code, dismissed on December 19 the current presidents of the Management Boards of Telewizja Polska SA, Polish Radio SA and the Polish Press Agency SA and Supervisory Boards. The Minister appointed new Supervisory Boards of the above-mentioned companies. Companies that have appointed new Company Management Boards.

On December 23, President Duda announced that he had vetoed the budget bill prepared by the new government, which provided, among other things, funds for public media for the next year. As the president justified, his decision was related to a “gross violation of the constitution and the principles of a democratic state of law” in the public media.

After the presidential veto, the head of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage decided on December 27 to put TVP, Polskie Radio and PAP into liquidation. The state of liquidation may be withdrawn at any time by the owner – stated in the announcement of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage. The Minister of Culture made a similar decision on December 29 in relation to 17 regional companies of Polish Radio.

January 18 Constitutional Court ruled that the provisions of the Commercial Companies Code (CCC) on the dissolution and liquidation of a joint-stock company, understood in such a way that their regulatory scope by virtue of the Act itself also covers public radio and TV units, are unconstitutional. Moreover, in the announced judgment, the Constitutional Tribunal ruled that the provision of the Broadcasting and Television Act excluding certain provisions of the Commercial Companies Code from applying to public radio and television units is unconstitutional. The Ministry of Culture and National Heritage announced that the Constitutional Tribunal’s judgment regarding public radio and television broadcasting entities has no legal significance. (PAP)

authors: Anna Kruszyńska, Daria Porycka


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