Three editors-in-chief from Polska Press fired after takeover by Orlen

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Tomasz Zieliński /"Media without choice" was a one-day protest against the Polish government due to a proposed tax on advertising

Editors-in-chief of three daily newspapers owned by Polska Press Group have been fired - group's board member Dorota Kania informed on Twitter. The three editors were Marek Twaróg from "Dziennik Zachodni", Jerzy Sułkowski from "Gazeta Krakowska", and Stanisław Sowa from "Nowiny". Their replacements have been already chosen, Kania added.

Polska Press Group fired editors-in-chief responsible for 4 newspapers on Thursday - Marek Twaróg from "Dziennik Zachodni", Jerzy Sułkowski from "Gazeta Krakowska", and Stanisław Sowa from "Nowiny".

One of the group's board members, Dorota Kania, informed about the decision on Twitter. She also introduced their successors.

The move comes after the group was taken over by Poland's state-owned oil giant Orlen in December, and despite a court's decision from April suspending the transaction.

The takeover of Polish newspapers publisher Polska Press by state-run refiner PKN Orlen is legally binding despite a court's decision to suspend the regulator's approval of the deal, PKN chief financial officer said on Thursday.

Opposition parties say the takeover, which was approved by competition watchdog UOKiK in February, was part of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party's efforts to increase its control of the media. PKN Orlen says it is a business transaction.

"We have legal opinions and reports at our disposal saying unequivocally that the transaction was conducted in an appropriate way, in line with Polish laws. The court's ruling has no impact on PKN Orlen's actions," CFO Jan Szewczak told a news conference following PKN's first quarter results.

Polish PKN Orlen chief executive said a court decision to suspend the competition watchdog UOKiK' approval of the state-backed refiner's takeover of newspaper publisher Polska Press would have no impact because the deal has been completed.

In April the Court of Competition and Consumer Protection suspended the UOKiK approval, following an appeal by Human Rights Commissioner Adam Bodnar, a vocal government critic.

PiS lawmakers have said foreign media companies have too much influence in Poland, while PKN Orlen, in which the state holds a 27.52% stake, said the deal was purely a business transaction.

"The acquisition of the shares of Polska Press took place successfully on March 1, 2021, i.e. before the court issued the decision. Therefore, the court's decision is irrelevant and does not affect our actions or the effectiveness of the acquisition," PKN Chief Executive Daniel Obajtek said after the court announced its decision.

"The court's decision also does not restrict PKN Orlen from exercising ownership rights from shares in Polska Press," Obajtek also said.

In the ruling published on UOKiK's website, the court said it was not yet clear whether the takeover would significantly limit competition.

It also said that disregarding the ombudsman's appeal against the competition watchdog's approval of the PKN deal would lead to the company executing a decision that is not final, as it has been appealed by an authorised body, "which should not take place in a democratic state of law".

UOKiK called the court's decision a "disturbing precedent" and said it would ask the court to speed up its ruling on the ombudsman's appeal.

"We are currently analysing further legal steps, including the possibility of revoking the court's decision," UOKiK said in a statement.

But Bodnar said the court's interim decision was final and not subject to appeal.

The refiner announced its plans to buy Polska Press in December. The media group publishes 20 regional dailies, about 100 local weeklies, several magazines and, a free city newspaper, its website says.


Źródło: TVN24 News in English, PAP, Reuters