Poland’s political battle over state media continued Wednesday as the president filed a revised spending bill in defiance of the new pro-European Union government ‘s goal of freeing the media from political control.
President Andrzej Duda, an ally of the previous right-wing government, had vetoed the new government’s bill that provided $762 million for the public media. His proposed bill strips that funding out.
Poland’s state-owned media have become the first battleground between the coalition government of Prime Minister Donald Tusk and the conservative Law and Justice party which formerly held power and whose allies retain a presence at state news agency headquarters.
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Tusk won power on promises to restore national unity and democratic norms, including through the reform of public media. His government holds 248 seats in the 460-member lower house, or Sejm. Its next session is Jan. 10-11.
Duda remains in office for another year and a half, and his veto is an early sign of difficulties Tusk is likely to face. Some observers say Law and Justice hopes to maintain control of state media and push its message ahead of local administration and European Parliament elections next year.
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Public media in Poland is funded by taxpayers and is required by the constitution to be free of political bias. But critics have accused Law and Justice of using media as a propaganda mouthpiece that has divided the nation by spreading disinformation, xenophobic and homophobic content and seeking to discredit Tusk and other pro-EU politicians.