Commissioner for Human Rights challenges press takeover by PKN Orlen

In a surprising move, Adam Bodnar, Poland’s Commissioner for Human Rights, has appealed the takeover of Polska Press, a publishing house, by PKN Orlen, a state-owned oil and gas giant.

In early February, Poland's Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK) approved the acquisition of Polska Press, which owns a large number of regional press titles, by Orlen.

In an appeal submitted to a Warsaw consumer court, Adam Bodnar, the Commissioner for Human Rights, asked for UOKiK's permit to be waived on the grounds that Orlen, as a state-owned company, could exert political pressure on the Polska Press media.

On Saturday, UOKiK’s press office issued a press release stating: “We are very surprised by the appeal submitted by the Commissioner for Human Rights in relation to the concentration of Polska Press/PKN Orlen. The decisions related to any concentration merely assure that the transaction in question does not infringe on the competition rules, because this is the mandate of UOKiK. The President of UOKiK has no authority to assess any other aspects of potential transactions, including factors such as media pluralism or freedom of speech.”

The UOKiK’s President, Tomasz Chróstny, further assured that “the decision related to the takeover of Polska Press by PKN Orlen had been preceded by a thorough analysis of consequences that may result from the concentration of assets and their impact on the competition on the researched markets.”

Referring to the action undertaken by Mr. Bodnar, the President of UOKiK declared that “The approval of the concentration was an evidence-based decision. I do not agree with the Commissioner’s position and I do not see any grounds for such conduct.”

The UKOiK’s press release stated that this was not the first time the Commissioner for Human Rights has taken a UKOiK’s decision to court, and emphasised that never before had a court changed a decision issued by its president.