Polish freedoms endangered by proposal
Dear Polonia in Chicagoland: Democracy and freedom of the press are at risk in our beloved country of our forefathers, Poland.
The Polish government is trying to stop the country's highest rated independent news channel, TVN24. The proposed media law would reduce the ability for free and independent media to operate if its ownership is 49% or more from a non-European source. TVN24 is the most widely watched and respected news station in Poland. Unlike state-owned channels, TVN24 broadcasts independent news and critical commentary about the government.
This issue hits close to home for Poles across Cook County, myself included. The Polish community is strong throughout the county, particularly in Niles, where I recently served as mayor. I am incredibly proud of my Polish heritage. My family formerly owned the House of the White Eagle Banquets and Restaurant in Niles on Milwaukee Avenue. I'm prideful to have received the Cavalier's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland, an award given to foreigners and Polish citizens permanently living abroad.
It's important to remember it has only been 32 years since the collapse of communism in Poland. However, Poland's new democracy has been in a fragile state for some time. According to Freedom House, democracy has been declining in Poland since 2012. This decline accelerated in 2015 when the Law and Justice (PiS) party came to power. Current attacks on free media, a core tenet of democracy puts the entire country's democracy at risk.
If the proposed media law is not stopped, TVN will become a political tool of the PiS Party, and free and independent media will die in Poland. I urge Polish Americans and all Americans to be vocal on this issue. A free and independent press is essential to holding our elected leaders accountable.
Andrew T. Przybylo