Polish Press Agency (PAP)

The Polish Press Agency (Polska Agencja Prasowa, PAP) is Poland’s national news agency. With a history dating back to 1918, when it was created by a group of journalists under the name of Polish Telegraphic Agency (PTA), PAP operated as a state-owned news outlet during communism, acting as an official communist mouthpiece.

After 1990, the agency gradually won more independence from the government although it was always financed and owned by government structures. In May 2018, PAP launched an English-language news portal as a response, the agency’s managers claimed, to the inadequate news coverage of Poland by foreign media.

Media assets

News agency: PAP

News portal: The First News

State Media Matrix: State-Controlled (SC)

Ownership and governance

The PAP governance structures (Management and Supervisory Board as well as an advisory Programming Council) are all appointed by the National Media Council, upon the same model that applies to TVP and Polish Radio. The Treasury fully owns PAP.

After opposition parties won sufficient seats in the elections on 15 October 2023 to take power from the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party, the public service media in the country, including TVP, Polish Radio, and the news agency PAP have gone through major changes.

The new coalition, consisting of the centrist Civic Coalition (KO), center-right Third Way (Trzecia Droga) and The Left (Lewica), led by prime minister Donald Tusk, began a reform of the public media in the country in the fall of 2023 in its ambition to reform these institutions into independent, impartial and pluralistic news outlets.

However, attempts to do that have been blocked by the Polish president Andrzej Duda, who represents the interests of the PiS. In late December 2023, he vetoed a bill put forward by the coalition related to the state media subsidies. Duda argued that the newly elected coalition is “illegally” seizing public media. As a result, the culture minister announced on 27 December 2023 that it put TVP, Polish Radio and PAP into liquidation. The move came after the management of TVP, known to be PiS loyalists, was sacked before Christmas 2023.

Source of funding and budget

As it is legally obliged to disseminate information about the Sejm, the Senate, the President, the Council of Ministers and other state bodies, the Polish Press Agency receives a state subsidy every year. However, that accounts for less than 50% of the agency’s total budget. In 2018, the state subsidy for PAP amounted to PLN 8m. The agency generates much of its budget from sales of content and advertising.

Editorial independence

PAP underwent major changes at the beginning of the 1990s, gaining significant independence of the government although it continued to face political pressures.  The relationship between PAP and political groups in the post-communist history of Poland has been ambiguous as the agency moved between complicity with the political forces and defensiveness, depending on the political context.

PAP has also been known for high quality news reporting and had on its payroll highly reputed journalists.

However, the legal provisions introduced by the National Media Council Act of 2016 placed the Polish Press Agency into the category of National Media that are supervised by the partisan National Media Council, a development that has significantly eroded the independence of the agency.

In spite of being funded by the government, PAP managed in the first half of the 2010s to gain more editorial independence, according to an assessment from a Florence-based research group. However, the legal provisions introduced in 2016 eroded the independence of PAP, according to a more recent assessment, dated 2020. The partisan, PiS-staffed National Media Council appointed a new PAP program council that consists mostly of “journalists with a conservative background.”

According to the 1997 PAP Act (Ustawa o Polskiej Agencji Prasowej), later amended, “the Polish Press Agency cannot find itself under legal, economic, or any kind of control by any ideological, political or economic group.” However, the changes introduced by the National Media Council Act of 2016 are steadily eroding the independence of the agency.

There is no independent/oversight mechanism validating the independence of the publisher.

October 2023