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Regulator receives complaint against public TV evening news programme

The HFHR has brought an official complaint to the National Broadcasting Council (NBC) against several news reports broadcast by TVP’s Wiadomości, the public television’s key evening news programme. The complainant alleges that the reports were purposively designed to discredit non-governmental organisations in the eyes of the public. The reports were aired on several separate days, from 24 to 31 October 2016.

The HFHR has asked the NBC to review whether the reports complied with requirements set by the Broadcasting Act, which obliges public television outlets to produce news in line with the principles of impartiality, balance and independence. Reports aired by Wiadomości violate these principles.

“A campaign against the NGO sector is an action detrimental to the public good, which is a value the public media must uphold and defend. The reports have been designed to smear social activists in an attempt to discredit the activities of leading Polish non-governmental organisations. These reports unfairly present the work of public interest organisations that are tasked with monitoring authorities’ respect for human rights and democracy”, reads the complaint.

Subsections 1 and 3 of Broadcasting Act’s article 21(2) oblige the public broadcaster to produce news reports in a way that ensures accountability for speech and promotes unrestricted dissemination of pluralistic ideas among members of the public. Moreover, the Act obliges the public media to enable the exercise of the right to social oversight and criticism by individuals and their organisations. Given the above, the public discrediting of non-governmental organisations’ work, especially in public media outlets, should be considered an attempt to intimidate NGOs and curb their outreach.

“Both Article 54 of the Constitution and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights stipulate that freedom of speech means not only privileges but also the obligation to report news in a fair and diligent manner and in good faith”, reminds Dominika Bychawska-Siniarska, a lawyer working for the HFHR.

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