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Polish president nixes law aimed at US media group Discovery

December 27, 2021

Government critics said the proposed media law was aimed at silencing dissent. President Andrzej Duda said it would have dealt a blow to Poland's reputation as a place to do business.

People attend 'Free People, Free Media' protest at the Main Square in Krakow, Poland
Duda said he made the decision to veto the law in the interests of Polish businessImage: Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto/picture alliance

Polish President Andrzej Duda said Monday that he had decided to veto a bill that would have forced the US media group Discovery to give up its controlling stake in Polish broadcaster TVN.

Duda said he recognized that the bill was unpopular with many Polish citizens and would have been a blow to his country's reputation as a place to do business.

The bill, recently passed by the lower house in Warsaw, would have blocked any non-European outlet from owning a 50% share or more in a Polish broadcaster.

"I believe that generally limiting the possibility of holding shares or stocks in media companies is sensible when it comes to foreign capital," Duda said. "I share the opinion that it should be introduced in Poland, but for the future."

Media freedom in question

"The bill and its amendments concern entities which are already present in the market," he continued. "There is also the issue of media pluralism, of freedom of speech. When taking my decision, I took this element into serious consideration."

Earlier this month thousands of people gathered in cities across Poland to demand that Duda veto the media law. The protesters criticized the bill, saying it was a push to silence TVN24 news channel, which is part of the TVN network. The channel has been critical of Poland's government.

Poland's ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party has long said that foreign media organizations wield too much power in the country and distort public debate.

Duda was elected with the support of the PiS, but his decision to veto the media law may strain his relations with the party that put him in power.

Critics say the government's moves against foreign media groups are part of an increasingly authoritarian agenda that has put Poland on a collision course with the European Union.

US 'appreciates' the move

The United States had registered its strenuous objections to the new media law, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying in August he was "deeply troubled" by the proposal, urging authorities in Warsaw to reconsider.

Lex TVN heralds loss of press freedom in Poland

US president Joe Biden's national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, spoke with two senior Polish officials over the phone on Monday and told them that Biden "appreciated" the veto.

"The veto sent a positive signal just before Poland takes over the Chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on January 1," said a US National Security Council spokesperson in a statement.

sdi, jsi/msh (AP, Reuters, AFP)