Belgium (Brussels Morning Newspaper), In a sweeping move aimed at revitalizing media freedom and breaking free from perceived government influence, Poland’s new Prime Minister Donald Tusk has initiated a major shake-up in the country’s state-owned media. Tusk, who assumed office recently, announced the dismissal of chairmen and boards of directors of state-owned television, radio, and news agencies, accusing them of one-sidedness and propagating government propaganda.

The reform, according to Tusk, is geared towards restoring freedom of speech and fostering the creation of new independent media entities in a country where concerns about media impartiality have been on the rise. However, the bold move has not been without its challenges, as some members of the Parliament, including the leader of the previous ruling party “Law and Justice,” Jarosław Kaczyński, and former Minister of Culture Piotr Gliński, have opted to boycott the ballot.

Poland, once ranked 18th in media freedom in 2015 by the international non-governmental organization “Reporters without Borders,” has witnessed a significant decline, now standing at the 57th place. This decline has been attributed to government actions that “seek to subordinate the judiciary” and the misuse of criminal defamation laws, affecting the freedom of expression in independent media, as pointed out by the organization.

Independent media outlets in Poland have faced challenges, with foreign ownership not necessarily translating into true independence. Among the 20 most-viewed TV channels, only four are foreign-owned, exclusively by the United States. Similarly, radio stations show a slightly better scenario, with seven out of 20 owned by foreign companies from the Czech Republic or Germany. Regional portals appear to be in a better position regarding media freedom, with three out of 10 most popular local portals being Polish, while the rest are either German or German-Swiss. However, the press in Poland remains a significant concern, with almost all political journals and newspapers being state-owned.

The severity of the issue prompted editors-in-chief of more than 40 independent newspapers in Poland to sign an open letter to the Law and Justice party in June 2023, vowing to resist any attempts to influence their editorial independence. The recent move by the new pro-European government to overhaul media leadership is a crucial step not only in reshaping the citizens’ perspective on state politics but also in restoring Poland’s international standing. For an extended period, Poland had been perceived as an untrustworthy state, and the lack of independent media only reinforced this perception. With this groundbreaking initiative, observers hope to witness positive changes in the country’s media landscape.