Ruling party wants change in regulation of journalism

The Law and Justice (PiS) party is proposing a new regulatory framework for the conduct of journalism in its election manifesto.

The ruling party argues that the journalist profession is one which depends on public trust and should, therefore, be regulated in a similar way to that of the medical and legal professions. This would mean establishing a body to oversee ethical and professional standards, education and entry into the profession and to ensure a degree of self-regulation for the journalist community.

The proposed reform also includes a proposal to scrap a controversial segment of the penal code which allows journalists to face criminal prosecution for libel against individuals. This provision has resulted in some cases in journalists facing prison and a criminal record for what they have written.

The present government amended the press law in 2017 by limiting the time window individuals interviewed by the press have to approve the interview for publication. This is because in the past individuals were able to stop publication by refusing to authorise the text of the interview.

Comment

There will be criticism that any regulation of the journalist profession carries with it dangers of limiting freedom of expression. The present government has been criticised in parts of the western media for being hostile to a free press.

In reality, the Polish media market is highly pluralistic. While the public media is government-friendly, the commercial media certainly are not. The press is also highly diverse. However, any attempt to regulate the profession may include attempts to define objectivity. That, in the current political climate, would be extremely difficult. On the other hand, most professions do have self-regulating bodies which carry some legal clout.

One reform that would be welcome by all journalists is the lifting of the penalisation for libel against individuals. The journalist community may disagree about most things, but they would certainly agree that libel should be a matter for civil law.

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