This week, Mikolaj Filiks would have celebrated his 16th birthday. Instead, his family and friends mourned his death at his funeral.

Mikolaj was the son of Magdalena Filiks, an MP for Civic Platform, Poland's main opposition party.

The teenager took his own life seven weeks after Radio Szczecin, a regional unit of state broadcaster Polskie Radio, broadcast a report on 29 December that identified him - in all but name - as a victim of sexual abuse.

Mikolaj’s death has sparked a fierce debate in Poland between opposition parties and state-run media over the treatment of the story and, more broadly, the current shape of public media in the country.

Since coming to power in 2015, the right-wing Law and Justice party has overhauled public television and radio. The party espouses a conservative, nationalist and Catholic doctrine that is often reflected in the news coverage on state-run channels.

Polish people had grown accustomed to state broadcasters leaning towards the government in power, according to Wojciech Szacki, a political editor based in Warsaw.

But he told RTÉ News that TVP, the main public television broadcaster, is now controlled by the Law and Justice party.

"They have stopped pretending that they are not even biased," Mr Szacki said. "Every sin that is committed is committed to a greater extent."

The report on Radio Szczecin detailed the case of a man who had been sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison in December 2021 for the sexual abuse of a minor. The man was also convicted of providing cannabis to another minor.

It cited the age of the victim at the time the abuse was committed in 2020, and also mentioned that the convicted man had been both an LGBT activist and a member of the opposition Civic Platform party.

Critically, the report stated that the victim of sexual abuse was the child of a "well-known female parliamentarian".

Ms Filiks is a Civic Platform MP in Szczecin, a city in northern Poland. Her son, Mikolaj, was the same age as the child mentioned in the report when the abuse was committed.

A written version of the report was also published on the same day by TVP Info, the online news service of state broadcaster TVP. It did not take long for people to identify him.

Ms Filiks announced the tragic death of her son on Twitter last week, along with details of his funeral, which took place on Tuesday.

In the tweet, Ms Filiks asked "the media" to respect the family’s privacy and not attend the funeral.

Donald Tusk, leader of Civic Platform, criticised state-run media for its coverage of a story which identified an underage victim of sex abuse

Civic Platform politicians have accused the Law and Justice party of using the case of a child and victim of sex abuse for political gain.

Former European Council President Donald Tusk, the current leader of Civic Platform, said that his party would hold the Law and Justice party accountable "for every villainy, for all the harm and human tragedy they have caused whilst in power".

Mr Tusk, who also served as the prime minister of Poland between 2007 and 2014, said Mikolaj was "hounded by a lack of discretion, a lack of delicacy, by the bad intentions of the authorities and so-called public media".

Szymon Holownia, the leader of Poland 2050, another centrist party, said he would join a boycott of TVP Info and Radio Szczecin, and called for a reform of state broadcasting.

The leadership of Law and Justice did not respond to Mr Tusk's comments.

The party also did not reply to questions from RTÉ News regarding Mr Tusk’s comments.

Public broadcasters have rebuked the accusations made by Civic Platform.

Following Mikolaj’s funeral, TVP Info accused Civic Platform politicians of using the boy’s death for political means.

In its article, TVP Info said that the boy's death was a "great tragedy". It called the claims that public media published information that led to his identification false.

Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki of the Law and Justice party, which has governed Poland since 2015

Changed media landscape

Night-time television news on TVP1, the country’s main television channel, supports the government’s position on issues such as the ban on abortion and the role of the Catholic Church, and takes a critical stance towards the opposition.

In the lead up to Poland’s last general election in 2019, a report by the Council of Europe found public service media continued "to act brazenly as a propaganda channel for the ruling party".

On Wednesday, TVP1’s news segment about the original Radio Szczecin broadcast ran with the headline: "The problem of paedophilia within the ranks of Civic Platform (PO)".

The segment featured the cases of five members of Civic Platform convicted of the sexual abuse of minors since 2011, one being the case featured in the Radio Szczecin report.

Editors and journalists from conservative publications were interviewed for the piece, though no interviewees from opposition parties or centrist publications were featured.

Meanwhile, the lead segment on the same news programme criticised a recent documentary by TVN, an independent broadcaster, which alleged that former Pope John Paul II had ignored complaints about sexual abuse by three priests when he was Archbishop of Krakow in the 1960s and 1970s.

"What separates TVP from any other channel in public television is that every piece that even barely touches politics is plainly pro-Law and Justice and equally plainly anti-opposition. Facts are mixed with comments," said Mr Szacki, political editor at Polityka Insight, a respected Polish publication.

"That's why TVP has nothing to do with journalism. It's pure propaganda."

Varsovians walk past the Carmelite Church on Warsaw's Royal Route

Public confidence in public service broadcasting has dwindled in recent years.

A study in 2022 by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism and the University of Oxford found that TVP was the media source least trusted by Poles.

Poland faces an election in October this year and polls indicate that it will be a tight-run affair.

Politico's Poll of Polls places support for Law and Justice at 36%, with Civic Platform on 30%. The formation of the next government is likely to be a coalition led by either party.

The media, both state-run and independent, will play a big part in backing their horse in the race. Law and Justice might have the upper hand in that regard. Last month, the State Board of Radio and Television Broadcasting (KRRiT) allocated an extra €400 million to TVP.

A minute’s silence was held in the Sejm, Poland’s lower house of parliament, on Tuesday in memory of Mikolaj Filiks - a rare moment of peace between conservative and centre-left parties.

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