back to top

    Foreign broadcaster in Poland has censorship inclinations and experts undermining US contracts

    The TVN station has filed a lawsuit for the protection of personal rights against the portal The television station’s management considered that quoting words from TVP INFO by the editor-in-chief of ‘Gazeta Polska’ Tomasz Sakiewicz was offensive. They, therefore, demanded security for the claim, which is limited to critical words about TVN and PLN 100,000 for charity. The American embassy has not officially commented on this, although the interpretation of the law overseas is clear.

    The overriding value for Americans, whether they prefer the Democrats or Republicans currently in power, is freedom of speech. The First Amendment to the US Constitution explicitly states that the suppression of freedom of the press is prohibited. What does this provision look like in practice? The Supreme Court in 2017 dealt with the casus of a complaint by the band The Slants (the band is made up of Americans of Asian descent), who was prohibited by the Patent and Trademark Office from registering their name and trademark under the Lanham Act of 1946 (which prohibits several actions concerning trademarks). The ruling included the following explanation:

    “The [Lanham] Act is a perversion of the fundamental principle of the First Amendment to the US Constitution: speech cannot be prohibited simply because it expresses ideas that are offensive.”

    According to Americanists and the legal community there, this is an important maxim, significantly expanding the boundary of free speech. The article did not express ANY offensive ideas, all the more reason for the American owner of Warner Bros Discovery to intervene in the station’s censorship drive. In the United States, after all, no one is surprised or outraged that lies – precisely within the framework of the freedom of speech guaranteed by the Constitution – are pointed out to CNN, Fox News and politicians of both Republicans and Democrats.

    Meanwhile, TVN is demanding that, for one year, the media of the Free Speech Zone (SWS Media) shall not publish phrases such as: “TVN lies; TVN provides information that protects Putin; TVN hides the truth about the Smolensk catastrophe; TVN publications are manipulated.” A better example of hypocrisy would be hard to find. Piotr Swierczek’s report on the Smolensk catastrophe itself was entitled with the phrase ‘The power of lies’. Journalists from TVN24 have repeatedly accused Antoni Macierewicz and the Smolensk sub-committee of passing off the truth. On the air of this station, journalist Joanna Komolka gave an unverified and, in the course of the research, rejected fragment of the alleged transcripts from the cockpit of Tu-154 M: ‘If we do not land, they will kill us’. Their veracity was even questioned by the Miller Commission. Journalists of TVN24 informed the public for weeks before a decade about an alleged argument between Gen Andrzej Błasik and Capt Arkadiusz Protasiuk. The pilot was said to have objected to flying out of Okęcie on 10 April 2010 because he did not have up-to-date weather information, the station reported. The reports were denied by the Supreme Military Prosecutor’s Office and the Miller Commission. TVN’s message about the causes of the Smolensk crash was similar to that served by the MAK: the crew’s descent below the minimum visibility, lack of adequate training and pilot error. The Russians, in addition to this, reject any responsibility for the preparation of the Severnyy airfield and accuse General Andrzej Błasik of applying pressure on the crew and exerting indirect pressure by the late Lech Kaczyński in order to land in terrible weather conditions. TVN programmes often judge the statements of politicians and other public figures, also harshly.

    These facts are not the only ones to shatter TVN24’s image in the clash over what words or assessments must not be used. Owned by an American tycoon, the medium has in recent years invited former military officers who served in units subject to Soviet influence to join its programmes. For many years, General Marek Dukaczewski, head of the post-communist Military Information Service and a former military intelligence officer in the People’s Republic of Poland, was an expert for the station’s journalists. Suffice it to say that Dukaczewski took part in communist service operations in the US and Israel in the 1980s, and underwent a GRU course in Moscow in August 1989. Another example of the promotion of generals that were hostile to democracy and the West in the past is the repeated presence on TVN24 of General Gromoslaw Czempinski, a Security Service officer who worked undercover at the General Consulate of the People’s Republic of Poland in Chicago in the 1970s. The chief expert for TVN24 is Gen Mirosław Różański, who claimed: “The establishment of a permanent US base in Poland invoking the NATO-Russia Paris Agreements (1997) in terms of breaking its provisions will, in my view, exempt Russia from complying with the document in question, and this already compounds the threat to our security.” 

    TVN has many such experts, such as Janusz Zemke, a frequent guest on the programmes, a former communist and party propagandist. A few months ago, Zemke criticised the procurement policy of the Polish Ministry of Defence, calling it a “wave of misfortune” and appealing to the opposition not to wait until the elections, but to take decisive action now. 

    “What we are dealing with today is chaos combined with megalomania,” he assessed. Zemke argued that “the state cannot stand it financially”. – HIMARS – 500, Polish Crabs – 120, Korean howitzers – 600; after all, there is no army in the world that would have so many of these. What is this for? – Zemke asked. “This is indeed a serious dilemma as to what the priorities really are. (…) I cannot understand, also the military men I ask about it, why we need so many cannon howitzers, rocket artillery, if not so long ago we said that the maximum that the Polish army needs was 120 Krab,” he wondered.

    The TVN station requested that will not have been allowed to write for a year: “TVN lies”, “TVN manipulates”. The court did not agree to such a safeguard, but the trial before the Regional Court, in this case, is yet to come. TVN24’s actions are not only intended to ‘gag’ other media, but also create the impression of disturbing activity in an election year. It has not been known for a long time which circles can count on favour at Poland’s largest commercial station and which are not tolerated by the TV station.

    More in section