THE EUROPEAN APPEAL CONCERNING THE TELEVISION TRWAM
ARTUR STELMASIAK, Brussels
During a public hearing in Brussels there were discussions about the dangers against the freedom of speech in our country. Thanks to it, the matter of the Television Trwam became a European litmus-paper of democracy in Poland.
The matter of the Television Trwam got to Brussels when all the forms of protests in Poland have already been used. In a crowded European Parliament hall, deputes, EU officials and foreign journalists got to know the discrimination history of the only Catholic television in Poland. – As an EU citizen I perceive a great value of the Television Trwam; for, it is an example of the variety of European culture and religion. Therefore I support the attempts for the concession of this television on the multiplex – said Dr Stefan Meetschen, a German correspondent for, among the others, the journal ‘Die Tagespost’.
At the EU forum
At the same time when in the building of the European Parliament there was a discussion about the dangers against the freedom of speech in Poland, 100 metres further, on the Luxembourg Square, about half a thousand of people were demonstrating. It turned out that the matter of the Television Trwam united the Polish rightist party. Among demonstrators the politicians of the Law and Justice were prevailing, and during a debate in the European Parliament – the politicians of Solidary Poland. This time the political groups aiming at the favour of the similar electorate of electors were united by the Polish raison d’etat. – I thank everybody who have realised this undertaking, both the politicians from Solidary Poland and the Law and Justice – said the director of Radio Maryja and Television Trwam, F. Tadeusz Rydzyk in Brussels.
During the debate, a few dozens of boxes with signatures against the discrimination of the Television Trwam were brought into the hall. This spectacular gesture showed the scale of the problem to the European public opinion, with which we have been struggling in Poland for many years. If in our country over 2.2 million signatures did not make enough impression on the Representative of the National Broadcasting Council, they were brought to Brussels where the whole matter will get onto the desk of the EU spokesman of the Citizens’ Rights.
– With the implementation of the Lisbon treaty, Poles received somehow an additional EU citizenship, so all our problems are solved both in Poland and on the European area. So, the decision of the National Broadcasting Council is not only a Polish problem, because it concerns the basic EU values. The issues of the freedom of speech, thoughts, conscience and media pluralism are written in the treaty and the charter of the basic rights – said to the weekly ‘Sunday’ Prof. Mirosław Piotrowski, the euro-deputy from the fraction the European Conservative activists and Reformers. It was him who, together with the Solidary Poland, initiated the debate in the European Parliament. – We would prefer there was not such a discussion in this place. Unfortunately, today’s authority in Poland caused that we have a very serious conflict in which millions of citizens have already got involved – emphasized Zbigniew Ziobro from the Solidary Poland. Also Elżbieta Kruk from the Law and Justice appealed for the support of our rights. – The European Commission often called membership countries to protect media pluralism which can exist only when equal and clear criteria of giving concession of broadcasting are applied. However, such criteria have not been applied towards the Television Trwam – emphasized the former director of the National Broadcasting Council.
‘Matrix’ in Polish
The danger against the freedom of speech in Poland is seen not only from the political perspective, but, first of all, the journalist environment notices it. Therefore, besides euro-deputies and MPs from the Polish parliament, the voice of publicists, who often personally experienced media pathology in our country, was very important.
– In the recent years in Poland we deal with the strenuous practice of breaching the freedom of speech and the discrimination of those journalists who are trying to fulfil their controlling duties towards the authority. It has been happening so since the governing party, taking advantage of political results of the Smolensk catastrophe, has taken over the control over all offices and institutions in Poland – emphasizes Anita Gargas from ‘Polish Newspaper’. In 2010, after realizing a few TV reports, concerning the Smolensk catastrophe, her program has been removed from the TVP antenna and she lost her job.
Editor Rafał Ziemkiewicz arrived at Brussels especially to defend the basic principles. – For, we are dealing with building a fictional reality, creating a kind of matrix. The authority wants to provide monopoly of information to those media which are supporting it – Ziemkiewicz informed the weekly ‘Sunday’. – So, the media pluralism is a fiction. People have a choice among 20 TV channels only apparently. However, it is completely meaningless which on they will choose, because they will receive the same transfer of information anyway.
Experts of media market in Poland, participating in the public hearing emphasized that the National Broadcasting Council had not fulfilled its constitutional duties. Although the presence of the Television Trwam on the multiplex will not balance the Polish media arena, it could play a ‘hygienic’ role in the Polish democracy. For, at present, it is the only television which is looking at the hands of the authority – explained the editor Bronisław Wildstein. The publicist also reminded that the present Polish Seym deliberately changed the Act about the National Broadcasting Council. Thanks to it, it was possible to specify the composition of its members who are behaving now like loyal functionaries of the authority.
The sign of phobia of Christianity
People participating in demonstration on the Luxembourg Square at that time, when the debate was taking place in the headquarters of the European Parliament, were holding banners with mottos which refer to the most important EU ideas. They were demanding media freedom, tolerance and pluralism.
– Because in Poland all possible instances have been used, so maybe the European public opinion, the European Parliament, which is extremely sensitive to the freedom of media, will be interested in this matter and this pressure may help so that the Television Trwam would be generally accessible in Poland – said Adam Hofman, the parliamentarian of the Law and Justice party. Also the director of the Television Trwam F. Tadeusz Rydzyk said a lot about it that the discrimination of the only Catholic TV station is a shocking sign of intolerance. – We have friends in atheists, Jews and Muslims. We do not have to agree with them in everything, but we can talk with them – he argued in Brussels. In his opinion the courteous process of allowing for the concession on the digital ground-based television shows that we are dealing with real phobia of Christianity. However, hardly anybody does say loudly about this phobia at the EU forum – I remember a story when Minister for Religions Kąkol used to say: - We will not allow the Church to come out of a sacristy, we will not allow the Church to influence the youth. Has anything changed in Poland after the policy changes or are we still obliged to the same reinforced concrete? – asked rhetorically F. Tadeusz Rydzyk.
During the debate in the European Parliament also euro-deputies from the governing Civic Platform were present, as well as Marek Siwiec from the Leftist Democratic Alliance, who in 1994 was a member of the National Broadcasting Council – I am glad that you are here with us today. You know how it was with Radio Maryja, when we had received concession despite of various political groups represented in the National Broadcasting Council – mentioned F. Rydzyk. It turns out that it was not so bad with media pluralism even when in the 90s the post-communist parties were holding the authority. This astonishment about such a turn of matter was not concealed even by the former President Aleksander Kwaśniewski. A few hours after the debate in the European Parliament, to the astonishment of Monika Olejnik, he said that if he had had the authority, the Redemptorist Fathers would have received the concession. – Although I do not personally watch the Television Trwam, there should be a place for it in the pluralistic worldview society – stated Kwasniewski on TVN24.
An official reason for the refusal to allow for the concession of the Television Trwam was to be a weak financial situation. Specialists from Lux Veritatis Foundation proved again that this statement has nothing to do with the reality and the refusal is connected only with the deliberate action of the National Broadcasting Council. The foundation in all economic parameters was winning with its competitors who had received concessions. There was a high disproportion in the respect of financial resources, permanent property, a number of the employees and media achievements. – Financial analysis of other stations which received places on the multiplex is shocking – said Lidia Kochanowicz, a Finance Director of the Lux Veritatis Foundation. – During the investigation of the transmitters, the National Broadcasting Council considered 99 selectively different parameters to different subjects. There is no common denominator, so we cannot state that everybody had the same chance – emphasized Kochanowicz.
The National Broadcasting Council did not even say what ‘financial credibility’ meant to her and she did not explain how she was investigating the economic situation of proposers. She gave concession according to her own point of view. – Therefore we will still demand our rights in the court – said Maecenas Benedykt Fiutkowski who represents the Foundation in the administrative court; whereas, Director Kochanowicz said to the weekly ‘Sunday’ that the Television Trwam will be trying to gain concession in another contest. What chance will it have this time? – I hope that the National Broadcasting Council got a good lesson. It did not expect that we would investigate its decisions so thoroughly, in the legal and economic respect. Therefore, it seems to me that in another contest there will be clear binding rules – says Lidia Kochanowicz.
Besides the attempts of the very Foundation, also politicians announce the continued fight for the Television Trwam. For example, the Law and Justice party assigned a special Parliamentarian Group in Poland for the Freedom of Speech. The issue will also be continued at the European forum. – We expect that we will be able to place this issue on the agenda of the European Parliament in Strasburg, which will concern the freedom of speech and citizens’ rights – announces the deputy Mirosław Piotrowski.