Poland: propaganda in state media

For the national conservative PiS government, the state television and radio braodcasters are important instruments for pushing through its policies. Defamatory statements are commonly used in this strategy.

LGBTI people and groups have been frequently targeted by the national conservative government and pro-government media.
LGBTI people and groups have been frequently targeted by the national conservative government and pro-government media.
In the campaign leading up to the 2019 parliamentary election, LGBTQ persons were the main enemies of the ruling PiS party and its affiliated media. Shortly before the elections in October 2019, the state television news channel TVP broadcast a documentary called "Invasion" in which LGBTQ people were accused of trying to legalise paedophilia. This is just one of many examples of extremely manipulative and politically motivated reporting by Poland's public media. The country has slipped further and further down the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index in recent years, ending up in 62nd place in 2020.

Appointing journalists with close party ties to top posts at state broadcasters is a key element of the PiS government’s political agenda. As a result, the quality of TVP's news programmes in particular has decreased significantly. They have become notorious for their manipulative lower thirds and the defamation of those who criticise the government.

Lucrative advertising for pro-government media

PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński relies not just on state media but also on private media to strengthen his party’s position. In the last decade numerous publications with ties to the PiS have been launched, including the daily paper Gazeta Polska Codziennie (2011) and the conservative magazine Do Rzeczy (2013). The national-conservative news magazine wSieci, founded in 2012, and the news site wPolityce.pl, which is closely connected to Sieci’s editorial team, play a prominent role here. Both are published by the Fratria media group.

For the media, close ties to the PiS are above all financially rewarding: since the election in 2015 publisher Fratria has received hundreds of thousands of złoty, mainly from government advertising. Since the government took office the right-wing news site wPolityce.pl has seen its visitor numbers soar, and is now one of Poland’s most important online media outlets. The public service media also profit from their association with the government: a law signed by President Andrzej Duda in March 2020 foresees additional annual payments of around 450 million euros from the state budget to public service broadcaster TVP until 2024.

Highly polarised – with one notable exception

The previous government also supported certain media in the same way. These media are now struggling financially, above all because the companies in which the government holds shares no longer use them for advertising. The liberal Gazeta Wyborcza, which is often critical of the government, is among those that have been worst hit, especially since, like most print media in Poland, it was already battling with a sharp decline in circulation. In 2019 it’s daily average was just 86,000 copies - compared to 140,000 in 2016. Yet it remains one of Poland’s most important outlets. The only dailies with higher sales in 2019 were the tabloids Fakt (218,500) and Super Express (110,800).

Other media besides Gazeta Wyborcza have declared war on the government, including the liberal magazines Polityka (97,000) and Newsweek Polska (109,000), which is published by Ringier Axel Springer.

A peculiarity of the Polish media landscape is its extreme polarisation: most media either support the government or bitterly oppose it. One exception is the conservative daily Rzeczpospolita, which lies between the two extremes and has actually seen a slight increase in its circulation in the last three years (52,700 copies sold daily in 2019). It used to support the PiS, but in recent times it has increasingly distanced itself from the party.

Gość Niedzielny, which is sold in churches and represents the opinion of the Vatican, remains the market leader in the magazine segment (109,000 copies).

World Press Freedom Index (Reporters Without Borders):
Rank 62 (2020)

Last updated: April 2020
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