Polish constitutional court rules changes in public media unconstitutional

The protest against the attack on Polish public media in front of the TVP headquarters in Warsaw. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
By Grzegorz Adamczyk
3 Min Read

Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal (TK) has ruled that using commercial law to implement changes in the management of public media or to liquidate public media entities, which were the methods used last month by the new left-liberal government, is unconstitutional.

Thursday’s judgment was made in response to a request to the TK by PiS MPs, submitted shortly before the new government used commercial law to justify removing and replacing the management of public media outlets. The government also later unilaterally put those outlets into liquidation.

The TK declared that a provision of the media law allowing the commercial code to be applied to state broadcasters of Polish Television TVP and Polish Radio cannot be used to dissolve or place those entities into liquidation. It also found that using the commercial code to dismiss the managerial boards of those companies does “not have any legal effect.”

According to Krzysztof Szczucki, the PiS MP who brought the action before the Constitutional Tribunal, the verdict is clear and means that the management of public media remains as before the changes enforced by the minister. 

Patryk Jaki, a PiS MEP, said the verdict was crystal clear and “all of Tusk’s usurpers should leave the buildings immediately, as all the actions of the minister were illegal.” He added that “you cannot bypass laws you do not like and that according to the constitution, the rulings by the Constitutional Tribunal are final.”

Jan Mosiński, another PiS MP said the constitutional court had exposed the hopelessness and lawlessness of the government’s position. 

However, the government immediately responded by declaring the constitutional court’s ruling invalid because it involved a judge illegitimately appointed under the former Law and Justice (PiS) government and two others who had a conflict of interest due to being former PiS MPs. 

It pointed to judgments by Polish and European courts that have found the Constitutional Tribunal to no longer constitute a legitimate body due to the changes made to it under the PiS government. In particular, it noted that one of the justices was appointed illegally in place of legitimate judges nominated by the parliament that preceded the PiS government.

It also claimed that Julia Przyłębska, the judge who chaired the ruling panel, was incorrectly appointed as chief justice of the TK, while the TK judges involved in Thursday’s ruling, Krystyna Pawłowicz and Stanisław Piotrowicz, were former PiS MPs who had been involved in changes to the very media law on which the tribunal issued its verdict.

However, many legal experts have expressed doubt about the government’s use of commercial law to replace the management of public media. Two weeks ago, a commercial registry court effectively agreed with them, rejecting the government’s move.

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