Donald Tusk, the former European Council president who is now Poland’s Prime Minister, has been accused of “the destruction of democracy” after seizing control of country’s state media and taking it off air.
Mr Tusk, who last week returned to the post he occupied from 2007 to 2014, has portrayed his move as a way of re-establishing independent media in Poland in a legally binding and lasting way.
However, Beata Szydlo, an MEP and herself a former Polish PM between 2015 and 2017, offered a scathing analysis, accusing him of “an illegal takeover” of Telewizja Polska (TVP).
On Tuesday, Polish MPs in the country’s legislature, the Sejm, adopted a resolution presented by Mr Tusk’s government calling for the restoration of “legal order, objectivity and fairness” of TVP, Polish Radio and the PAP news agency.
After the resolution, Poland’s new culture minister, Bartłomiej Sienkiewicz, replaced the heads and the supervisory boards of state media, which chose new management.
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The new head of TVP’s supervisory board, lawyer Piotr Zemla, came to the broadcaster’s headquarters on Wednesday, along with the new management and journalists.
Ms Szydlo, a member of the recently ousted Law and Justice Party (PiS), told Express.co.uk: “Donald Tusk’s government is trying to change the authorities in charge of public media in Poland based on a Sejm resolution.
“Sejm resolutions do not provide a legal basis for authorities other than the Sejm. Nevertheless, based on this, Tusk’s people broke into the headquarters of Polish Television and claimed that they are now in charge.
“In addition, the authorities immediately stopped the broadcasting of Polish Television, an unprecedented event in Polish history. It is as if the BBC was taken off the air at the request of the Prime Minister.”
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She continued: “In addition to the attempted illegal takeover of public media, the very mode of using the resolution as a basis for government action raises the risk that Tusk will try to act the same way in other matters. This is the destruction of democracy in Poland.”
Law and Justice leader Jarosław Kaczynski and other top party figures occupied buildings housing the offices and studios of state-run television TVP in the hope that their supporters would come out to demonstrate in big numbers. A rally was called for later Wednesday and a few hundred people gathered, flying Poland’s national white-and-red flags, but then dispersed.
Law and Justice MEP Marek Pek said: “The party instructions are that all Law and Justice parliament members come here to the TVP building. We must show through our presence that we are deeply against these lawless and brutal actions.”
Law and Justice subsequently issued a statement saying the actions of the new government were “illegal” and that the changes in leadership of the media outlets were done “unlawfully”.
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Posting on X, formerly Twitter, and referring to Law and Justice ally, Poland’s President Andrzej Duda, Mr Tusk said: “Mr President, as I have already informed you, today’s actions are aimed – in accordance with your intention – at restoring legal order and common decency in public life. You can count on our determination and iron consistency in this matter.”
Mr Duda’s critics have accused him of violating the Polish Constitution and other laws as he tried to support the policies of the Law and Justice party. Some of the party’s policies, especially in the judicial sector, drew strong criticism and financial sanctions from the EU, which regarded them as undemocratic.
Mr Tusk has close ties with Brussels, visiting European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen even before he returned as Prime Minister. He has made little secret of his wish to put Poland at the heart of the EU.
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