High drama in Poland as the parliament passes a bill that will tighten rules on foreign ownership of media houses.
The move, dubbed the “lex TVN”, represents a direct attack on the critical and independent US-owned TVN and TVN24.
Government wins vote despite losing majority after coalition partner walks out and widespread national protests.
Poland: Parliament votes in favor of controversial media bill https://t.co/dxBYSDmq4E— WORLD LEADER 1 ARTHUR GEORGE CARTER (@ARTHURGCARTER1) August 12, 2021
A new media bill is an attempt to silence a TV channel critical of the government. The government says the law is needed to stop hostile foreign powers from taking control of its broadcasters.
"The parliamentary majority, glued together with the mud of corruption and blackmail, is crumbling before our eyes," former EU chief Donald Tusk wrote on Twitter.
#Poland: Demonstrations were held across 80 cities yesterday to protest against #LexTVN legislation which would ban non-European ownership of domestic media, force the sale of critical @TVN_rozrywka & dramatically accelerate PiS-led media capturehttps://t.co/yXqI951iiP— IPI - The Global Network for Press Freedom (@globalfreemedia) August 11, 2021
The law threatens to sour relations with the US, a key ally, and deepen EU concern over media freedom in Poland. However, the plans have been criticized by the US, which is an important military ally.
That would force the US media group Discovery to sell its majority stake in TVN, one of Poland’s biggest private TV networks. Discovery said in a statement after the vote it was “extremely concerned” but remained “resolute”.
IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: “The “lex TVN” bill, which is really intended to better control dissenting voices, is a worrying sign of the deterioration of press freedom in Poland. Under the guise of “recolonization” of the media landscape, the government is trying to legitimize a form of censorship. We call on the Polish Parliament to hear the protests and vote against the bill.”
Washington has urged Warsaw to rethink, saying the proposed law would inevitably harm “defense, business, and trade relations” between Poland and the US.
Jak daleko od zachodniej cywilizacji się znaleźliśmy... #ruskiŁad #NowyWał Polish parliament passes controversial media bill https://t.co/Q29eHxfdnQ— *Tomasz⚡️ (@yunec) August 12, 2021
The bill will now pass to the opposition-controlled Senate, which may make amendments or reject the bill.
Thousands of people took to the streets in rallies across Poland on Tuesday over the draft law.
The United Rights coalition, which is dominated by the PiS, has governed Poland since 2015. The next elections are scheduled for 2023.
Another attack from the Polish government on #PressFreedom and #media must be stopped. When will the @EU_Commission @VeraJourova make firm decisions to protect free media and journalism? @EFJEUROPE @ECPMF @forfreemedia https://t.co/NsOPOZO22U— Mogens B. Bjerregård (@mogensbb) August 11, 2021
It has been accused by the European Union of rolling back democratic freedoms but is still popular among many Poles, mainly for its social welfare reforms.