The second strike came Monday, when a government-controlled media authority leveled a $420,000 fine on the country’s most important independent news broadcaster. Its offense was covering a protest demonstration earlier this year. That follows a dubious $30 million tax bill the television channel, TVN24, was handed in July. The station, owned by Scripps Networks Interactive, is one of the largest U.S. investments in Poland. But Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, following a playbook pioneered by Vladimir Putin, appears intent on forcing TVN24 to adopt a pro-government line, or else be sold or shut down.
Poland’s actions clearly violate the democratic norms of the European Union, and its ruling commission has begun a disciplinary process that could, in theory, lead to fines or the loss of voting rights. But both E.U. and Polish leaders know those actions are likely to be stymied; they must be taken by a consensus of the bloc’s 28 members, and Hungarian strongman Viktor Orban, who is guilty of the same offenses, will object. Some European officials have talked about trimming E.U. budget funds for Poland. That might get the attention of Mr. Kaczynski, who has long been hostile toward the union but wants to keep its cash coming.