The right-wing nationalist government in Poland has presented a draft law that would ban foreign ownership of media. On 7 August, the bill was approved by the lower house. This is a serious blow to Polish freedom of the press, and the country risks, like Hungary, ending up in a place where no mass media can be seen as independent. RFSL is concerned that the law will lead to increased stigmatisation of LGBTQI people in the media.
“Security for LGBTQI people has, step by step, been dismantled in Poland. Among other things by the introduction of LGBTQI free zones and through arbitrary judicial proceedings against LGBTQI activists. That the government now strives to tighten its grip on free speech is worrying as it risks leading to that LGBTQI people are stigmatised and outed in the media to a greater extent,” said Deidre Palacios, president of RFSL.
The law narrowly passed the House of Commons and can be seen as an attack against, among others, American-owned TVN, a TV channel that often broadcasts government-critical reports and investigatations about corruption and discrimination.
The head of the leading political party in Poland, Law and Justice (PiS), has been outspoken about not wanting any foreign actors to be able to influence what is written and said in national media. Within the country, too, measures have been taken to lessen the criticism against the government, for example by substituting independent journalists in public service for pro-government employees during later years.
“That an EU country wants to silence critical voices and instead promote only those that are loyal to the government is remarkable. If the media stops addressing issues important to, for example, LGBTQI people and other minorities in society, democracy risks being undermined,” said Deidre Palacios.
The situation for LGBTQI people has gradually deteriorated
For the second year in a row, Poland is the country at the bottom of the EU countries in ILGA’s yearly report on the respect for LGBTQI people’s rights in Europe. In its evaluation, ILGA believes that Poland’s President Andrzej Duda has contributed to degrading and defaming LGBTQI people through repeated homophobic statements.
As late as July, four LGBTQI activists were prosecuted after having published a digital map that showed which local parliaments that had adopted declarations that discriminate against LGBTQI people. Also, Poland’s Minister of Education recently made a statement that Poland should copy the new law in Hungary, which, among other things, makes it impossible for LGBTQI people to appear in television shows, educational material, and advertisements.
“In a time when many European countries are attacking the human rights of LGBTQI people, Sweden and the EU must stand united and condemn laws as well as statements founded on homo- and transphobia. We encourage Sweden and other EU countries to take a leading role in the continued work for positive change. We also welcome that the EU Commission has launched a so-called infringement procedure against Poland against the background that the LGBTQI free zones that have been introduced at the local and regional levels constitute discrimination,” said Deidre Palacios.
*This article was updated on 2021-08-18