3rd August 2020
By Wendy Collinson

Building Trust in Journalism – Poland

The Ethical Journalism Network, together with their partners the Evens Foundation and Fritt Ord Foundation, have produced the following report which looks at the challenges that the media are facing in Poland. Based on a number of interviews conducted with media practitioners in Poland, the report explores the impact of political polarisation on the media and the growing political pressure on media independence and professional practice. It includes a set of clear recommendations for the media and policy communities to take forward.

The end of state socialism brought about a period of media pluralism and growth in the 90s and 2000s but that has developed into a landscape where polarised media are dominating the debate and with democracy feeling more under threat than ever. Public media continues to provide the government with a platform for party propaganda and narrative domination in an overall environment where hate speech, xenophobia, racism and the harassment of journalists is becoming more commonplace and accepted by some elites. In a society where divides are deeper by the day, journalism and professional media are also beginning to show those divisions. This report argues, however, that despite these highly challenging circumstances, there are a number of opportunities to support independent voices through innovative journalistic practices and business models.

There is an overwhelming consensus that the media environment is highly polarised and that this has become ingrained in Poland. The media are very strongly aligned to political parties and religious or ideological entities or groups and their content and narratives reflect these associations.

The challenges that the media are facing in Poland from extreme politicization are further exacerbated by some of the global issues that are affecting all media, from funding to declining public trust in media institutions.

While there is a huge diversity in the media, with a multitude of different voices and opinions, the media in Poland have seen an increase in the use of language and content that could be considered to be hate speech and the rise in hateful narratives towards minority groups, migrants (in particular from Ukraine), the LGBTQI community and gender intolerance is palpable. Majority groups such as Catholics, priests, large families have also come under attack from different sides of the political debate.

Media legislation that governs the public media in Poland has allowed governments to take firm control of public television, TVP, and to some extent the Polish Radio (PR). This has further intensified under the current government as laws continue to be promulgated in order to give the ruling party even greater jurisdiction.

The private media sector is dominated by a number of different key players. Yet again, each has their own political agenda and as such the number of impartial platforms and independent voices remain limited and often stifled. Official use of defamation and libel laws is
rife as a means of cracking down on media freedom and opposition.

Audiences of news produced for the Polish market and media consumers continue to watch and consume media with which they agree politically. Confirmation bias dictates people’s media choices and as such the role of the media as information provider and facilitator of
debate is contested. This is further intensified by limited media distribution and internet penetration in rural areas.

Regional media and journalists feel less exposed to political circles and therefore more able to report independently and innovatively as well as more flexible to network and support each other. However, they have less access to national government, sources and information.

Download the report


The Evens Foundation

The Evens Foundation aims to contribute to rethinking and building a European reality committed to the values of diversity, freedom, responsibility and solidarity. We identify and support innovative ideas and achievements through our prizes and calls, initiate experimental projects bridging the gap between research and practice, and facilitate knowledge exchange through our lectures, seminars, debates and publications.

The Fritt Ord Foundation

The Fritt Ord Foundation is a private non-profit foundation that is intended to protect and promote freedom of expression, public debate, art and culture. We work internationally, concentrating on projects directly related to freedom of expression and free journalism.