Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Polish government declares war on TVN

The government accuses private TVN television’s news and current affairs programs of acting as a mouthpiece for ex-communists and the liberal opposition. And there are secret agents working for the broadcaster. And that TVN is part of the anti-government conspiracy...

Just when you thought you had seen it all, Poland manages to pull another weird looking rabbit out of the hat.

All hell went off today after right wing Gazeta Polska published an article claiming that Milan Sobitic, Program Secretary of TVN (and advisor on the program Teraz My which broadcast the Beger Tapes last Tuesday), collaborated with the Polish Secret Services from 1984 to 1993. His contact officer was Konstanty Malejczyk, who went on to head WSI (1994-96), the post-communist Secret Services which the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) are currently disbanding, in the relief that the organization is still, literally, a nest of communist spies.

At lunchtime a spokesman for PiS said, during a very bad tempered news conference (it was the journalists who were outraged) that TVN was indeed part of a campaign to bring down the government; its news coverage was not objective journalism; and that it was putting forward the views and interests of Civic Platform, the opposition party with a lead of 16 points in the polls since the program was aired a week ago.

Gazeta Polska’s article goes on to draw connections between TVN and the ex-communist SLD to prove that it is part of the ex-commie-liberal conspiracy.

For instance, the paper notes that Mariusz Walter, founder of TVN, was a journalist for state television in communist Poland from 1963 and was a member of the Party until 1983. In 1976, Jan Wejchert, Executive Chairman of the owning company, ITI group, one of the richest men in Poland, was the first Pole to open a business in East Germany.

Lots of connections between ex-president Alex Kwasniewski and TVN, between Kwasniewski and Wejchert and Kwasniewski and Walter. Gazeta Polska even suggests something sinister in the fact that his wife, Jolanta Kwasniewska is a regular guest on a health and beauty program on the TV cabal channel TVN Style.

And much more besides. TVN are outraged, saying that the claims are ‘absurd’. They say that Milan Sobitic, the man alleged to have been a secret services collaborator, first heard about what was in the program Teraz My when it went out live on air, last Tuesday night. Only five people knew about what was in the program (and that excluded Walter and Wejchert).

Shoot the messenger

This government’s record with the media has been a dreadful one, almost from the very start (see Reporters Without Borders). They alienated all the mainstream media by giving unique access to TV Trwam, part of the right wing nationalist Radio Maryja group. I commented at the time that if most of the media weren’t against PiS then, then they were for sure out to get them after that. And ‘get them’ TVN did on those now infamous tapes with Renata Beger and Adam Lipinski putting a price on the survival of the government.

PiS have felt entitled to try and control what is in the media, both print and electronic, public or private, in Poland and outside of it (particularly when it’s in Germany).

And now we have open war between a government and a popular and expanding TV station.

Surly it can’t get any worse than this? Can it...?

Update: The editor of Gazeta Polska, who was invited to this week’s Teraz My has failed to turn up. I wonder if he is getting nervous about the ‘material’ he says he has to prove the allegations?