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Tags: Poland | Media Law

Polish Lawmakers Overturn Senate Veto on Disputed Media Law

Friday, 17 December 2021 11:00 AM EST

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s president will have the final decision on a controversial media bill seen as targeting a U.S.-owned TV network that's often critical of the Polish government, after lawmakers on Friday overturned a Senate veto on the proposed legislation.

In its last session of the year, the lower house, or Sejm, unexpectedly returned to the draft law that had seemed on freeze after the upper house rejected it in September. The lower house voted 229-212, with 11 abstentions, to reject the Senate’s veto.

Now the bill, which has already been approved by the Sejm, only needs backing from President Andrzej Duda to become law. But Duda has indicated he sees it as “controversial” and “incomprehensible” to the United States, citing the U.S. attitude toward the protection of property and freedom of speech.

He can either approve it, reject it or send to the Constitutional Tribunal — which is friendly to the right-wing government — for assessment.

The law would prevent any non-European entity from owning more than a 49% stake in television or radio broadcasters in Poland.

Its practical effect would be to force Discovery Inc., the U.S. owner of Poland’s largest private television network, TVN, to sell the majority or even all of its Polish holdings. Discovery Inc. is the only non-European media owner in Poland and the law is seen as targeting it.

Discovery Inc. said the outcome of Friday’s "surprise vote in the Polish Parliament should be deeply concerning to any enterprise investing in Poland and to anyone who cares about democracy and freedom of the press."

“Through this vote, Poland risks directly undermining the values that have connected Poland with Europe, and uprooting the foundation of the Polish-American relationship,” the company said in a statement.

It appealed to Duda to “prevent” the bill it from becoming law.

The top U.S. diplomat in Poland, Embassy charge d’affaires Bix Aliu, said on Twitter that the U.S. was “extremely disappointed by today’s passage of the media bill by the Sejm.”

“We expect President Duda to act in accordance with previous statements to use his leadership to protect free speech and business,” Aliu said.

Poland’s nationalist ruling party, Law and Justice, which proposed the law in the summer, has argued that it’s a matter of national security to prevent outside bodies from being able to influence Polish public opinion. Its members insisted the law is to protect against ownership coming from non-democratic countries like Russia or China.

Party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Poland’s most influential politician, maintained that state-owned companies will not be buying TVN and that it will most probably remain critical of the government.

The unexpected and last-minute vote on the controversial law drew protests from opposition parties.

© Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


GlobalTalk
Poland's president will have the final decision on a controversial media bill seen as targeting a U.S.-owned TV network that's often critical of the Polish government, after lawmakers on Friday overturned a Senate veto on the proposed legislation.In its last session of the...
Poland,Media Law
449
2021-00-17
Friday, 17 December 2021 11:00 AM
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