WARSAW, Poland, April 23, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Well over 20,000 demonstrators gathered in downtown Warsaw on Saturday April 21 to protest a decision by Poland’s National Broadcasting Council (KRRiT) to deny a new digital broadcast license to a Catholic television station, TV Trwam. A petition in support of the Catholic station has reportedly been signed by over 2 million Poles.
The march was organized by the conservative opposition party Law and Justice (PiS) led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski and began with an open-air mass in Three Crosses Square celebrated by Bishop Anthony Dydycz.
Participants then marched to the parliament, chanting the slogan “We will not give up Trwam Television,” singing religious songs and carrying the flags of Poland and the Polish trade union federation Solidarity.
“The people in this building must be ashamed to have raised a hand against the Polish Church, against democracy, against national dignity,” said Kaczynski to the mass of demonstrators outside the office of Prime Minister Donald Tusk.
“Polish Catholics have the right to their own media,” he said according to an AFP report, and accused the government of “illegally” denying Trwam TV its license to broadcast on the free public digital network.
KRRiT denied the license on the grounds that there is a “lack of transparency in its funding,” according to a Warsaw Voice report.
TV Trwam is part of a Catholic media organization owned by the Redemptorist religious order that also runs Radio Maria and publishes the Catholic newspaper Nasz Dziennik. The media group is directed by Redemptorist priest Fr. Tadeusz Rydzyk.
According to Henryk Bartul, a Polish freelance filmmaker now residing in Ontario, the reason given by the KRRiT in its explanation for withholding the broadcast license has more to do with curtailing freedom of speech and a Christian perspective than with funding accountability.
“TV Trwam is one of very few Polish broadcasters that is unabashedly able to criticize the liberal government policies of Prime Minister Donald Tusk, and in doing so has raised the ire of the government which is now trying to control the Catholic media as it controls the secular media of the rest of the country,” Bartul told LifeSiteNews.
“The media run by the Redemptorists is not controlled by the government. The government sees this as a threat to their liberal and secular agenda so they are trying to restrict Catholic media availability,” he said.
The organizers of the Warsaw march said that Saturday’s protest, one of many held throughout the country in recent weeks protesting what the protesters see as the heavy-handed tactics of the government, was “not only resistance against the outrageous, politically motivated decision,” against TV Trwam, but was “in defense of freedom of speech, democracy and sovereignty in Poland.”
Jan Dziedziczak, a parliamentarian of the Law and Justice Party, said in a statement in the Polish Sunday Catholic Weekly that despite a petition demanding that TV Trwam be granted a license that contains over two million signatures, from the government’s point of view, “it is much more convenient to give away the concession to friendly TV stations or some entertainment channels than to TV Trwam, which presents the Christian world view. So, the decision of the National Broadcasting Council is based in a wider trend of fighting the Church in Poland.”
In a statement on the overwhelming support shown for Catholic media in Saturday’s demonstration, Fr. Rydzyk said, “When I see what is happening in our country, I am wondering whether we will be excluded or will get this concession. After all, millions of people and all bishops of the Polish Episcopal Conference support us and today I see this reinforced again.”