The lower house of the Polish parliament on Wednesday (11) approved a media law which, according to opponents, aims to silence an American channel critical of the government, by making it difficult to operate companies outside of it. ‘European Economic Area.
After a night of protests by the thousands in the streets of Warsaw and 80 other cities, the legislation was adopted, by a simple majority, with 228 votes in favor, 216 against and 10 abstentions. The text now depends on the approval of the Senate (upper house) – but there, the opposition is in the majority, and the project must be blocked.
In this case, the proposal refers to a new assessment by the lower house, where it depends on the absolute majority (231) of the 460 seats.
Washington has already warned that the non-renewal of the license of the news channel TVN24, owned by Discovery Inc, could jeopardize future investments in Poland. The channel is part of TVN, controlled by the American group through a company registered in the Netherlands, created to circumvent a decision which prevents non-European companies from owning more than 49% of media companies in Poland.
The law prohibits this type of arrangement and comes just before TVN24’s license renewal deadline, which expires on September 26. Its approval, if successful, would then set up a confrontation with one of Warsaw’s main allies.
“The law as adopted is an attack on democratic principles, freedom of expression and the independence of the media, and is directly discriminatory against TVN and Discovery,” the American company disputed in a statement. The company also called on the Senate and President Andrzej Duda of the Law and Justice Party (PiS) to oppose the text and prevent it from becoming law. “Poland’s future as a democratic country on the international stage and its credibility in the eyes of investors depend on it.”
The opposition inside the country condemns the text which it considers an attack on freedom of the press, while the government defends that it is considering adopting rules similar to those of other countries of the European Union. “We have the right to regulate the issuance of capital in any way the Polish Parliament deems appropriate,” said spokesman Piotr Muller.
Even before the lawmakers’ decision, State Department spokesman Ned Price said the United States was watching this and another Holocaust bill “very closely.”
The latter proposal was also approved by the lower house of parliament and makes it difficult for Jews to reclaim property taken by German Nazis and, after World War II, passed under Communist control. As it had already been ratified by the Senate, the text is now subject to presidential approval.
The vote prompted a reaction from Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid. “I condemn the legislation adopted today in the Polish Parliament, which undermines both the memory of the Holocaust and the rights of its victims,” he said in a statement.
The analysis of the two proposals took place in the midst of the internal crisis of the government coalition. This Tuesday (10), Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki sacked his deputy, Jaroslaw Gowin, who heads the Accord party, until then a member of the coalition.
Gowin had criticized the media law and had previously opposed judicial reforms, which led to a European Union lawsuit against Poland. For the former Deputy Prime Minister, it makes no sense to clash with the bloc over these changes. “This dismissal is the de facto breakdown of the governing coalition and the de facto end of the united right,” Gowin said on Tuesday.