Old Captive Nation, New Captive Media

Ah, how something like the following takes us geezers back to the old days!

“[Poland’s] Premier Szydło discusses new law about TK.” TK means Tribunał Konstytucyjny or “Constitutional Tribunal,” meaning Poland’s Supreme Court. That TK hasn’t been operating so well lately, really since the new right-wing PiS government took power last November. Among other things, it then pushed through laws intended to severely curtail the TK’s ability to exercise judicial review, that is, to vet the laws passed by the country’s bicameral legislature (Sejm/Senat) and reject those in conflict with the national constitution. Those controversial government measures against the TK included rejection of judges who had been appointed to join the TK prior to the regime-change, in favor of other judges more to the new government’s liking.

In exchange, the sitting TK has ruled against and therefore refused to accept those laws, and those new justices. For months now there has been this stalemate between the executive/legislative branches and the judicial branch – something along the same line but still much worse than the US Senate’s refusal to consider President Obama’s nominated replacement for deceased Supreme Court judge Antonin Scalia.

The new government also legislated to put the national TV and radio stations under much closer government control, which led to mass resignations of much of the media talent at those institutions. These two areas – that is, TK and media – are the main elements (but not the only ones) which has led to much alarm about the direction of Polish democracy, foremost on the part of the EU, but also within the US government. A recent Washington Post piece in connection with President Obama’s visit to Warsaw for the NATO summit there (Obama slammed Polish democracy) showed this high level of concern.

More entertainingly, it also lays out how tricky editing when it came to the report about Obama’s remarks that was actually broadcast on Polish State TV made sure that most national viewers were left with no inkling that the US President saw Poland as anything other than a model democratic state. Really, those who ran the same broadcast facilities with an iron fist during the bad-old Communist times – however many are still left – are surely nodding in approval.

That WaPo peace is of course in English; you can read all about the details if you like. The point is, it’s now 2016 and media has expanded into the social variety, yet the same whitewashing treatment can be seen with those new sorts of messages, such as the tweet seen above. “Prime Minister discusses law” – as if the whole matter simply revolved about finding and passing the right legislation to clear up the TK controversy and get the government back to functioning normally again.

For the details about this latest legislation the Warsaw Business Journal has a nice summary. Ultimately, though, all of that is irrelevant: this is a constitutional stand-off that cannot be resolved simply by passing more laws, for it is clear that the Constitutional Tribunal will simply yet again point out how it is inconsistent with Poland’s constitution and reject it – and the stalemate will go on.

The WBJ piece suggests that one function of this latest law was simply to try to impress on President Obama, in time for his visit, that steps were being taken to resolve this grave constitutional dispute – to fool President Obama, that is, since as we have seen this is no sort of effective contribution towards bringing about resolution. Of course, it’s unlikely that Obama follows the @Wiadomosci_PR (that is, “News_PR” when PR = Polish Radio) Twitter-feed: it is native Poles who do that, and so it is they who are being hoodwinked by such State propaganda, which, again, really must at least inspire nostalgia – of the unwelcome sort – among those old enough to remember government messages from the old RPL – Polish People’s Republic.

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