Polish TV channel fined over coverage of protests

Warsaw (AFP) –


Poland's media regulator has fined a major news channel over alleged biased coverage of anti-government protests in December 2016, with the broadcaster TVN24 vowing Tuesday to appeal.

Teresa Brykczynska, spokeswoman for the KRRiT regulator, told AFP that US-owned TVN24 was being fined because it "failed to inform viewers that the December 16-18 protests held outside parliament were unlawful, and for urging viewers to participate in the illegal protests."

TVN24, one of the EU country's two major news channels, is appealing against the unprecedented fine of nearly 1.5 million zloty (350,000 euros, $414,000), according to a statement posted on its website.

Dozens of liberal opposition lawmakers occupied parliament's main chamber last December in protest over plans by the governing rightwing Law and Justice party (PiS) to ban journalists from parliament, a measure it later dropped.

The PiS government accused the opposition lawmakers of trying to stage a coup d'etat as thousands of demonstrators rallied outside parliament in support of their stance.

Brykczynska said that the media regulator had received "many complaints" about TVN24's coverage of the events.

It said the channel had "created a climate of tension and threat" and that "the plurality of information had not been respected", she added.

TVN24 said "the accusations made by the KRRiT are based on a report lacking objectivity and rigour".

The channel says its coverage of the protests was balanced, and claims to have run live broadcasts and rebroadcasts of speeches made by powerful PiS party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

Since taking office in October 2015, the PiS government has been accused by media and rights groups of seeking to limit press freedoms, including by ramping up state control over public broadcasters.

In July, the European Union called for an end to the "intimidation" of journalists critical of the PiS government, saying that media freedom should be respected.