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Poland’s Donald Tusk Carries Out Pre-Christmas TVP Takeover

By Robert Strybel
Warsaw Correspondent

Warsaw–On 20 December 2023, a few minutes past 11 AM, people across Poland watching public TV’s main main news channel saw their screens go blank. The new, tough government chief Donald Tusk had ordered his takeover task force to switch off the station’s power. Simultaneously. his hand-picked replacements, backed by police, entered the offices of TVP. Dozens of MP’s of the formerly ruling conservative Law and Justice (L&J) party, including its aging leader Jarosław Kaczyński, 74, had spent the night in the building fearing it might get stormed.

PHOTO: Lawmakers led by PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński, centre, held an all-night vigil inside TVP’s headquarters after walking out of a debate in parliament over the broadcaster’s future © Pawel Supernak/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

The takeover was carried out on the basis of a resolution adopted by Tusk’s parliamentary majority, although the Constitutional Tribunal, the only organ empowered to rule on a law’s constitutionality, had declared that a resolution was too low-level a legal act to overturn a law signed by the president. The Tribunal had also called for takeover measures to be suspended until 16 January.

Supporters of TVP say it had finally assured media pluralism by giving viewers a true choice and providing a platform for dissenting views. During its two terms in office (2007-2015), Tusk’s party had largely limited conservative opinions, forcing TVP to parrot the liberal-leftist line of mainstream media. TVP is the only station to which some one-third of Poles have access. Tusk said the crackdown was meant to “restore media order” and “give TVP back to the Polish people.”

TVN24, Poland’s US-owned pro-Tusk channel preceded news of Tusk’s takeover with an announcement that the former government’s interior minister Mariusz Kamiński and his deputy were sentenced to two years in prison on charges of “exceeding their competence” during their crackdown on a corruption scam. Both were pardoned in 2015 by President Andrzej Duda.

As if to demonstrate who now runs the show, Tusk’s financial minister recalled former pro-L&J TVP chief Jacek Kurski as Poland’s representative to the World Bank. Tusk’s justice minister Adam Bodnar meanwhile was deciding which judges would be allowed to adjudicate. He was using a low-level legal act which he had recently said could not undo a legislatively processed law.  So far, under the rule of what L&J calls Tusk’s “coalition of revenge and chaos,”  looks set to continue the Polish-Polish war or quite some time.