Police officers entered the headquarters of Polish public television
Police officers entered the headquarters of Polish public television. AFP

Poland's pro-EU government on Wednesday launched a reform of state media and sacked their management, as right-wing lawmakers staged a sit-in to protest the changes and public broadcasts were interrupted.

The shakeup comes a week after Prime Minister Donald Tusk took power and after eight years of rule by the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party.

PiS politicians denounced the media reshuffle as "illegal", while their ally, the country's president, called on the government to "respect Poland's legal order".

State-owned media under the PiS were regularly accused of biased reporting, transmitting government propaganda and launching verbal attacks on the opposition.

The culture ministry said in a statement the chairmen and boards of the state-owned television, radio, and news agency had been removed in a bid to restore the "impartiality" of public media.

Shortly after the announcement, state news channel TVP's regular broadcast was suspended, with only the television logo visible on TV screens.

The TVP Info news channel's website also went offline.

On Tuesday, the new ruling bloc had adopted a resolution calling for the restoration of the "impartiality and reliability of the public media".

But PiS lawmakers largely boycotted the parliamentary vote, staging a sit-in in the state television buildings that continued through the night into Wednesday.

And on Wednesday, President Andrzej Duda weighed in.

"In connection with the culture ministry's actions today regarding public media, I call on Prime Minister Donald Tusk and the cabinet to respect Poland's legal order," he wrote on X.

Attached, was a letter to Tusk in which he said that "a parliament resolution does not have the force of law".

Tusk immediately tweeted back, saying: "as I already informed you, today's actions are -- in accordance with your intention -- aimed at restoring legal order and common decency in public life.

"You can count on our iron determination on this matter," he added.

Following the changes in state media management, PiS chairman Jaroslaw Kaczynski was seen entering the state television building.

Kaczynski is the party's most prominent politician and for eight years was widely regarded as Poland's de facto leader.

"There is no democracy without media pluralism or strong anti-government media, and in Poland these are the public media," he told reporters on Tuesday evening.

Kaczynski said PiS politicians could continue the protest on rotating shifts.

Former prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki, also present in the building, said "a forcible intrusion" of the new management was taking place in state-owned television.

"What we are seeing is the first step towards a dictatorship," Morawiecki told reporters.

On Wednesday, an AFP reporter also saw police enter the television building.

A former culture minister in the PiS government said the state media reshuffle was "illegal".

"This is clearly an attack on free media, it is a violation of the law," Piotr Glinski told AFP.

The PiS government was frequently criticised by the opposition and non-profits alike for trying to stifle independent media and limit freedom of expression.

Global media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in 2020 said "partisan discourse and hate speech are still the rule within (Poland's) state-owned media, which have been transformed into government propaganda mouthpieces."

In the 2023 report, RSF also said the PiS government "has multiplied its attempts to change the editorial line of private media and control information on sensitive subjects."