Polish Senate to take up bill seen as limiting media freedom

International

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s Senate is beginning a two-day session on Thursday during which it is scheduled to vote —and expected to reject — a media bill seen as targeting a U.S.-owned television network’s ability to keep broadcasting independent news.

However, the Senate has no power to stop it altogether. Even with the Senate rejection the bill can return to parliament’s lower house for passage. If it passes there, it would then go to the president for his signature.

However the bill’s chance of becoming law seems low at the moment, primarily because President Andrzej Duda says he wouldn’t sign it into law in its current form.

The bill, which passed parliament’s lower houselast month, 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 its Polish holdings.

The nationalist ruling party, Law and Justice, drafted the legislation, arguing that it’s a matter of national security to prevent outside bodies from being able to influence public opinion within Poland.

Government opponents view it as an attempt to silence a news broadcaster that is critical of the government and exposes wrongdoing.

Opposition lawmakers have a slim majority in the Senate and have vowed to reject the legislation.

If the bill returns to the Sejm, the lower house, it’s also not clear if Law and Justice could get it through a second time due to some defections from the ruling coalition causing it to have a more fragile parliamentary majority.

Furthermore, Duda, though an ally of Law and Justice, says he will veto the legislation in its current form. Last month, he called it “a controversial solution that is incomprehensible” to the United States, citing the U.S. attitude toward the protection of property and freedom of speech.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last month that the United States was “deeply troubled” by the legislation targeting TVN.

“Poland has worked for decades to foster a vibrant and free media,” Blinken said. “This draft legislation would significantly weaken the media environment the Polish people have worked so long to build.”

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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