Me­dia own­er­ship, ed­u­ca­tion on agenda for Poland’s law­mak­ers

The Myanmar Times - - World -

POLAND’S par­lia­ment gets back to work on Tues­day fol­low­ing its sum­mer break, launch­ing what is widely ex­pected to be a rau­cous au­tumn of po­lit­i­cal change un­der the rul­ing na­tion­al­ist-con­ser­va­tive Law and Jus­tice party. Th­ese are some of the main is­sues the party has promised to tackle:

NATIONALISING THE ME­DIA

Af­ter com­mu­nism col­lapsed in 1989, pub­lish­ers and broad­cast­ers from Ger­many and other West­ern coun­tries es­tab­lished a dom­i­nant role in Poland and me­dia mar­kets else­where in Cen­tral Europe.

Law and Jus­tice says the num­ber of for­eign-owned me­dia con­sti­tute a dan­ger­ous mo­nop­oly that West­ern Euro­pean na­tions would never al­low. The party is work­ing on a law that would dras­ti­cally limit for­eign own­er­ship of news­pa­pers, mag­a­zines and other news out­lets. A “de-con­cen­tra­tion” is needed “for the good of Poland and the good of cit­i­zens,” party leader Jaroslaw Kaczyn­ski said.

Among the com­pa­nies at risk are Swiss-Ger­man ven­ture Ringier Axel Springer Me­dia, which owns the widely read tabloid Fakt and the Pol­ish ver­sions of Newsweek and Forbes; Ger­man me­dia houses Bauer Me­dia Group, Burda and Ver­lags­gruppe Pas­sau; and the Amer­i­can com­pany Scripps Net­works In­ter­ac­tive, owner of TVN, which pro­duces in­de­pen­dent and pop­u­lar news pro­gram­ming. Scripps it­self was re­cently bought by another U.S. com­pany, Dis­cov­ery.

Crit­ics fear that Law and Jus­tice — af­ter turn­ing pub­lic me­dia into a party pro­pa­ganda or­gan — is try­ing to seize con­trol of pri­vate me­dia to si­lence crit­i­cal voices.

TAK­ING CON­TROL OF THE COURTS

Law and Jus­tice al­ready achieved a par­tial over­haul of Poland’s court sys­tem, an ef­fort it said was needed to make the courts more ef­fi­cient and re­move “many patholo­gies” left over from com­mu­nism. Op­po­nents see a power grab as the changes give the party greater con­trol over the courts.

So far, the party has packed the Con­sti­tu­tional Tri­bunal with its loy­al­ists in a legally du­bi­ous way. It has also given the Jus­tice Min­is­ter, who is also the Prose­cu­tor Gen­eral, the power to name the heads of all the or­di­nary courts in the coun­try.

Fur­ther changes, how­ever, were blocked in July by Pres­i­dent An­drzej Duda, who was elected on the Law and Jus­tice ticket in 2015 but has since been at odds with party lead­ers.

This fall both the par­lia­ment and the pres­i­dent are ex­pected to present new ver­sions of the two ve­toed bills. One of the key is­sues at stake is whether the party will also be able to as­sert its con­trol over the Supreme Court, whose re­spon­si­bil­i­ties in­volve con­firm­ing elec­tion results.

NEW SCHOOLS, NEW PA­TRI­OTS

Law and Jus­tice is pro­mot­ing a re­or­ga­ni­za­tion of the ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem to in­still greater pa­tri­o­tism in young Poles. The Ed­u­ca­tion Min­istry says it wants to en­cour­age the val­ues of “fa­ther­land, na­tion, state,” among oth­ers. One pro­posed change would re­move an­cient Greek and Ro­man his­tory from the 4th grade cur­ricu­lum to fo­cus ex­clu­sively on Pol­ish his­tory at that stage.

The multi-year tran­si­tion also would phase out mid­dle schools and re­turn to a sys­tem of eight years of pri­mary school fol­lowed by high school. Some teach­ers and prin­ci­pals fear they will lose their jobs, while crit­ics worry the pa­tri­otic cur­ricu­lum will cre­ate a more in­ward-look­ing and less tol­er­ant mind­set among Pol­ish youth. The party is still ham­mer­ing out changes to the high-school cur­ricu­lum. Many are ex­pected to be con­tested.

RE­LA­TIONS WITH EURO­PEAN POW­ERS

As the party pushes its do­mes­tic leg­isla­tive agenda, it also must man­age re­la­tion­ships with other Euro­pean pow­ers that have be­come strained in re­cent months.

The main stand­off pits Poland against the Euro­pean Union. Key ar­eas of dis­pute are Law and Jus­tice’s ju­di­cial changes and ap­proval of large-scale log­ging in an an­cient for­est. Poland’s re­fusal to ac­cept any refugees un­der an EU-wide re­set­tle­ment plan also has fur­ther in­flamed the ten­sion.

Pol­ish lead­ers also have bick­ered with French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron, who wants to stem the flow of lower-paid work­ers from other EU coun­tries to France. And the govern­ment in War­saw has threat­ened to bill Ger­many in com­ing months for Nazi’s de­struc­tion of Poland dur­ing World War II.

Photo: AP

leader of the rul­ing Law and Jus­tice party, Jaroslaw Kaczyn­ski re­acts af­ter law­mak­ers voted to ap­prove a law on court con­trol in the par­lia­ment in War­saw, Poland.

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