Sejm passes amendment granting 2 bln zlotys compensation for public media. Controversial gesture by PiS MP

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TVN24 News in English, PAP
Joanna Lichocka showing middle finger to opposition

The Sejm on Thursday disregarded the Senate's call to reject the amendment to the broadcasting act and the license fees act which assumes nearly 2 billion zlotys of compensation in 2020 for Polish Television (TVP) and Polish Radio. The bill will now be sent to the president in order to be signed into law. The debate on the bill culminated after Law and Justice (PiS) MP Joanna Lichocka extended her middle finger at the opposition. She later explained that the gesture wasn't what most people thought it was.

The vote count showed 232 MP were in favour of rejecting the Senate's resolution, and 220 were against. There were no abstentions.

The vote was preceded by a debate in which opposition MPs stressed the bias of information and opinion programmes in the public television. The chairman and presidential candidate of the Polish People's Party (PSL) Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz said the money should rather be spent on Polish oncology. Deputy Speaker of the Sejm and Civic Platform's presidential candidate also spoke against the bill. "Public media in Poland have long been gone" - she said.

Others who voiced their protest against designating 2 billion zlotys to public media included Confederation MP Grzegorz Braun, Krzysztof Paszyk (PSL-Kukiz15), as well as Joanna Scheuring-Wielgus from the Left. "This is defrauding of Polish people's money" - she said.

If passed, the bill would green-light a 1.95-billion-zloty compensation in 2020 for TVP and Polish Radio for the incurred losses.

Middle finger controversy

In defense of the public television were MPs from the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, among others, Marek Suski and Joanna Lichocka. The former said the Senate's call to reject the bill was a scandal. She added that public media in their current form, including TVP, were "what people need".

The heated debate in the lower house reached climax when Joanna Lichocka extended her middle finger when returning to her seat after delivering speech. Opposition MPs expressed their outrage with Lichocka's gesture. Michał Szczerba wrote on Twitter: "Unbelievable what PiS MP is showing the opposition!".

Shortly after Lichocka responded to the shared photos: "If I wanted to show the middle finger to Civic Platform MPs, who behaved well out of order, I would have done so. I moved the finger under my eye twice, briskly, as I was upset" - she explained.

Report on hate speech in public media

Civic Coalition MEP Magdalena Adamowicz announced in February she would prepare a report for the European Parliament on how free media should look like and how to avoid hate speech in them.

"As a member of the LIBE Committee (Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs) in the European Parliament, which deals with the rule of law and safeguarding citizen rights, I've been chosen to prepare a report for the needs of the EU Parliament, aimed to set a road map to free media, and how to free media content from hate speech, without violating the freedom of speech" - Adamowicz said.

"This is a very difficult task, as there's a fine line between freedom of speech and hate speech" - she added.

The report, said the MEP, was to be ready in a few months.

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Źródło: TVN24 News in English, PAP

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