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Open letter on appointments of National Media Council members

The National Media Council, the body supervising the operations of public media outlets, has been created under the newly enacted National Media Council Act. The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights and the signatories of the Civic Pact for Public Media have urged for electing the Council members in a way that ensures the body’s independence and pluralism.

In the issued position statement, the organisations emphasise that “independence of bodies supervising the public media is a key condition of them being free from political pressures, and in consequence also of the public media’s ability to perform their public mission and advance freedom of speech.”

Such independence will certainly not be upheld by the Sejm’s appointment of three Council members from the same political party. Already at the stage of legislative works on the National Media Council Act, the HFHR warned that the absence of a prohibition against combining the Council’s memberships with the parliamentary or party membership is contrary to the standards of the Council of Europe. The authors of the letter appealed to the institutions responsible for appointing members of the Council to abide by this rule as a good practice despite the lack of any formal statutory prohibition, noting that developing such a good practice prior to the first appointment of the body may actually influence the procedure governing future appointments.

The position statement also notes the need to appoint the Council members in an open and transparent way, so that the appointment procedure is placed under effective public scrutiny. This goal can be achieved if independent candidates without party ties are given an opportunity to be elected, reads the statement. It also calls for enabling public hearings of prospective Council members.

“In the assessment of the HFHR and the Civic Pact for Public Media, satisfaction of the above conditions, namely appointing Council members without a political or party affiliation and employing a transparent and publicly verified selection procedure, is capable of attaining the objective set by the drafters of the National Media Council Act, that is the foundation of a politically independent and pluralistic Council. Otherwise, we cannot see how the further politicisation of public media may be avoided”, reads the position statement.

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