The Council on Ethics recommends that Polski Koncern Naftowy Orlen SA be placed under observation due to an unacceptable risk that the company is contributing to human rights violations in Poland. This recommendation rests on Orlen’s acquisition of the newspaper publisher Polska Press and its implications for freedom of the press and therefore freedom of expression in Poland.
Orlen is an integrated energy company controlled by the Polish state. Its acquisition of Polska Press gives Orlen control of the majority of Poland’s regional newspapers, in addition to a large number of local media houses and online portals. Since the acquisition, a number of editors have been replaced and it is claimed that Orlen has interfered in editorial decisions.
A number of key commentators have pointed out that the state’s ownership of Orlen could open Polska Press to the exercise of political influence and that the acquisition therefore adversely effects freedom of expression. The risk of political influence is particularly serious in connection with elections. To what extent this risk may materialise is nevertheless uncertain. The Council therefore recommends that the company be placed under observation.
The Council on Ethics issued its recommendation on 24 October 2022. Norges Bank announced its decision to place the company under observation on 22 February 2023.