The race for the polish presidency claims its first 'victim'

20-02-2004

Although presidential elections are not due to be held in Poland until the end of next year, there's already a good deal of speculation on the possible candidates for the post. More than that, there's already been one victim of the race.

Until three weeks ago, the main news programme on the commercial TVN network was anchored by Tomasz Lis, one of Poland's top media personalities, who has three books and a stint as the Washington correspondent for the public TV to his credit. After the Polish edition of Newsweek published an opinion poll suggesting that Lis's popularity might make him the only person able to challenge current First Lady Jolanta Kwasniewska in the elections, he was taken off the air. The station claimed he could no longer be seen as a credible and objective journalist and a couple of days ago fired Lis from his job. For 36-year-old Tomasz Lis, the case reminds him of the situation that took place in the United States in 1972.

"A poll was taken, and according to this poll Walter Cronkite, who was anchoring CBS news, had quite serious chances to become President. He said, "well I'm not interested, I'm a journalist, I'm going to be a journalist". And actually this poll was used as a sort of confirmation of how successful Cronkite was, of how credible CBS news was, and actually it was used to the advantages of Cronkite and his network. Apparently we have totally different standards, and the fact that I'm considered credible, that people trust me, it's not something that could, and will, or, is destroying my career."

According to Marcin Sobczyk of the Warsaw Independent newswire service, it is TVN news, which boasts a daily audience of over 2 million, which stands to lose...

"No doubt it has lost one of the most talented journalists, one of the most talented TV personalities, in fact. And. Of course, it has lost that person for somebody else."

That 'somebody else' is likely to be Polish public TV whose new boss, with roots in the Solidarity movement, has promised a major reshuffle in the news department. But most Poles believe that there's more than meets the eye in Tomasz Lis's affair. Marcin Sobczyk again

"No doubt Tomasz Lis's political career is not something that is called political fiction - it's political reality. Not now, and probably not over the next couple of years, but my bet is that perhaps when the next race comes around the corner, which will be in about six years from now, I'll be on the look out for Tomasz Lis."

For the time being Tomasz Lis remains committed to journalism

"I was a journalist, I am a journalist, I want to be a journalist, you know. My bosses didn't want to hear it because probably they had a different reason to dissolve this contract. But yes, my plans are 100 percent connected to journalism."

Lis's latest book - a collection of political essays - is entitled 'What about Poland?' There's a question mark too over its author's future career.

20-02-2004