Polish media freest since 1989, PAP head says

Wojciech Surmacz , PAP head Jacek Turczyk / PAP

Never since the 1989 fall of communism has Polish media been as free as today, Polish Press Agency (PAP) President Wojciech Surmacz said on Tuesday at a Media as a Public Service conference in Warsaw.

Addressing the second day of the conference in Warsaw's Journalists' House, Surmacz stressed that freedom of speech in Poland today was at its highest level ever.

"Never since 1989 has media freedom in Poland been as well-established as it is today. (...) Media freedom in Poland is (...) very broad and freedom of speech also stands at a historically high level," Surmacz said.

Surmacz stressed that media in Poland "were not forbidding anything," and journalists were free to voice their views, but observed that professional journalism standards required objectivity over personal opinion.

Commenting on current media needs, Surmacz said the Polish Press Agency had recently launched an English-language news service informing about Poland, and observed that there had been no English-language media in Poland after 1989. He said the service, titled The First News, covered not only Polish politics, but also other areas of interest.

Bogusław Chrabota, editor-in-chief of Poland's national daily Rzeczpospolita, said freedom of speech was a fact in Poland and assured that he did not feel any political pressure in his work. He recalled, however, that this had not always been the case in the first years after the downfall of communism.

"In today's perspective the situation is more transparent. I believe there is freedom of speech in Poland and no one tries to close anyone's mouth," Chrabota said.

Bernard Margueritte, president of the conference co-hosting International Communications Forum (ICF), asked if Western media had the moral right to condemn media in Poland and other countries.

Jolanta Hajdasz from the Polish Journalists' Association (SDP) mentioned Poland's falling rankings in press freedom surveys, which suggested media freedom in Poland was deteriorating. However, Hajdasz remarked, such rankings were compiled by "virtual" methods which had little to do with reality and based on the ranking authors' personal preferences.

The two-day Media as a Public Service conference is held in memory of Poland's former national ombudsman Janusz Kochanowski, who died in the 2010 Smoleńsk air disaster in western Russia together with the Polish president and numerous top state officials. Its organisers are the Journalistic Solidarity Foundation, the International Communications Forum and the Polish Journalists' Association (SDP) in partnership with the Polish National Foundation.