HFHR’s Opinion on Editorial Independence in Public Media
Editorial independence is an important condition for exercising the right to freedom of expression, which enables the media to perform the role of the “public watchdog” in a democratic society. This principle allows journalists to avoid political and financial pressures and simply do their job. The guarantees of editorial independence are especially important for the public media as they remain at the core of national broadcasters’ public mission. The mission includes, among other things, disseminating pluralistic information which reflects beliefs of different social groups.
As part of the series “Analyses and Recommendations”, the HFHR publishes an opinion on the guarantees of editorial independence from the point of view of international standards and Polish law. “Editorial independence must be protected not only in terms of external relations of journalists, but also within the realm of the media itself. One of the key elements of independence is to develop the activities of an editorial office, including its HR policy, in such a way that would ensure autonomy of journalists guaranteeing their independence from the media owners and their interests”, the opinion reads.
The opinion refers in particular to the status of an editor-in-chief and the relations between editors-in-chief and governing bodies of the public media in Poland, especially Management Boards, Supervisory Boards and Programme Boards. Attempts of such bodies to unduly influence current operations of an editorial office or its employment decisions concerning individual journalists may be deemed an interference with the self-reliance and independence of an editor-in-chief.
The information that the media disclosed in March 2015 concerning the pressure put on journalists of Radio dla Ciebie (RDC) and in particular the reports about murky circumstances of the sudden termination of cooperation with journalist Eliza Michalik have led the HFHR to examine this issue.