The Listening Post

Poland: The EU’s media freedom conundrum

We examine what Poland’s new contentious media law means for journalism; plus, covering Pakistan’s northwest.

Since Poland’s right-wing Law and Justice party won the country’s parliamentary elections in October, the media landscape has been undergoing a series of transformations.

The party led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski is anti-Russian, distrustful of Germany and suspicious of immigrants. And with its strong emphasis on what it calls traditional Polish values, the government clearly wants domestic media organisations to get behind its nationalist message.

It has made significant changes to the public broadcaster in Poland, passing a media law that gives the government the power to directly appoint the heads of TVP – Poland’s public broadcaster – and other state-owned media outlets.

That legislation has raised concerns in Brussels, where European Union officials have threatened to throw the book at Poland for what they see as a blow for pluralism and press freedom.

But the EU has had little influence on a similar turn of events in Hungary, where Victor Orban’s Fidesz party has reshaped the country’s media in its own, ultra-conservative, image. So is there any reason to believe things will turn out differently in Poland?

Talking us through the story are: Krysztov Skowronski from the Polish Association of Journalists; Jaroslaw Kurski at Gazeta Wyborcza; journalist Attila Mong; Elda Brogi from the European University Institute; and TVP2 chairman Maciej Chmiel.

On Our Radar this week: Two and half years after its launch, Al Jazeera America has announced it is shutting down; Argentinians take to the streets as the one of the country’s most prominent radio hosts is fired; Turkey’s government issues a ban on coverage after the suicide bomb in Istanbul, but the Turkish media report the story anyway.

Mission impossible: Reporting Pakistan’s northwest

In our feature segment this week, we follow one journalist reporting from Pakistan’s northwestern region of Waziristan.

For more than a decade, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of northwest Pakistan, known as FATA, has been the target of American drone strikes – one of the toughest stories to cover on the ground.

Reporting on the effects of drone strikes has led to a number of journalists getting killed. FATA, and especially Waziristan on its southern edges, is militarised and locked down. Few reporters even try to go there.

The Listening Post‘s Meenakshi Ravi finds one journalist telling the human side of a story usually told from a safe distance – either from the air or the centres of power conducting the strikes.

And finally, getting the perfect picture on social media sites such as Instagram – one that captures that seemingly fleeting moment – can be a lot of work.

Mystery Hour is a late-night talk show in the US that also produces comedy skits. This offering looks at the labour-intensive Instagram feed from the photographer husband’s point of view. Instagram Husband has been viewed more than four million times online.