Polish state TV seeks to discredit president's key rival

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Centrist opposition presidential candidate, Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski, center, greets a supporter as he deliver signatures for his presidential candidacy to Poland's state electoral commission in Warsaw, Poland, on Tuesday June 9, 2020. Trzaskowski had under a week to collect 100,000 signatures to formalize his candidacy, but managed to get 1.6 million. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

WARSAW – WARSAW, PolandPolish state television faced increasing criticism Wednesday for its negative coverage of the main opposition candidate in this month's presidential election, with accusations from watchdog groups it was resorting to anti-Semitic and racist tropes.

Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski, who is challenging right-wing populist President Andrzej Duda, was depicted by public television in a nearly seven-minute news broadcast Tuesday as someone who would serve the interests of a “powerful foreign lobby” and not of Poles if he were to win the presidency.

TVP is taxpayer funded and required to be politically neutral. But TVP and other publicly-funded media have recently been trumpeting achievements of the governing nationalist conservative party, Law and Justice, and criticizing political opponents.

Reporters Without Borders has called Poland’s public media “government propaganda mouthpieces,” while many older Poles critical of the government often liken the current practice to the propaganda of the communist era.

Tuesday's segment came after the first part of an evening new broadcast dominated by positive coverage of Duda, who is seeking reelection in the vote on June 28 against nine other candidates. Trzaskowski has emerged as Duda’s main opponent, with polls showing a runoff between the two will be likely required on July 12.

The program noted that Trzaskowski, who belongs to the centrist and pro-European Union Civic Platform party, had negotiated Poland’s position on accepting 7,000 refugees in 2015. That decision was reversed by the anti-migrant Law and Justice party, which won power in 2015.

The broadcast showed groups of dark-skinned people in violent riots in Western cities, saying that those were the kinds of scenes that Trzaskowski’s policies would bring to Poland.

Andrzej Krajewski, a member of the board of the Society of Journalists, a media watchdog, said the program marked a new low for TVP, which he said has abandoned journalist standards and was carrying out pure propaganda.