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European Commission to review Poland media law

[JURIST] The European Commission (EC) [official website] on Sunday expressed its intentions to debate Poland's new law on control of state-run media after Warsaw seized control of public broadcasters. The debate [Reuters report], scheduled to be held on January 13, is likely the first stage of a potential punitive action to be implemented. The media law, which was rushed through Poland's parliament and came into effect on Wednesday, gives Poland's conservative government the power to directly appoint the heads of public broadcasters. The EC has written to Polish ministers "expressing concern over the media law and seeking an explanation of how it would take EU rules on media freedoms into consideration." The ruling centrist party of Poland, Law and Justice Party (PIS) [party website, in Polish] has rejected criticisms that its policies are undermining democracy in Poland. However, there is a larger concern in the EU that this new Poland law will erode checks and balances on government powers.

Poland has been on the headlines in recent months for a series of controversial laws enacted in the country. In December Poland enacted [JURIST report] a law requiring its highest court to have 13 judges present, as well as a two-thirds majority vote to make a ruling. The PIS is allegedly the driving force behind these new laws. The PIS party, a conservative party elected in October, holds an overwhelming majority [BBC report] of positions in the Polish government including the lead in both parliamentary houses and the presidency. Earlier last month the leader of the European Parliament [official website] compared PIS' rise to power in Poland to a coup [BBC report], leading to the government to call for an apology. Prior to this political upheaval, Poland faced criticism for hosting a CIA-operated secret prison [JURIST report], where terrorism suspects were held and tortured between 2002 and 2005. An investigation [JURIST report] into the prison has been ongoing in Poland since 2008.

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