Controversial media ownership bill approved by Poland MPs

Web DeskWeb Editor

12th Aug, 2021. 02:55 pm
Controversial media ownership bill

Members of Poland’s lower house of parliament voted in favour of a Broadcasting Act amendment that tightens rules on foreign ownership of media, raising concerns about press freedom.

The media law, which passed on Wednesday, would make it illegal for companies from outside the European Economic Area to own a controlling stake in Polish media companies.

This would necessitate the sale of Discovery’s majority stake in TVN, one of Poland’s largest private TV networks, whose news channel TVN24 is frequently critical of the government.

According to the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, the law is necessary to prevent hostile foreign powers from seizing control of powerful broadcasters and is consistent with rules in other European countries.

But critics say it opens a path for a state-controlled company to take control of TVN, following a takeover of the regional newspaper group Polska Press by state energy giant PKN Orlen.

TVN urged the Senate and the president to vote against the bill, calling it an “unprecedented attack on freedom of expression and media independence.”

The Senate is nearly evenly divided, with the opposition holding a narrow majority. Andrzej Duda, the country’s president, is a member of the ruling PiS political party. The vote came during a stormy session of parliament that at one point was interrupted when MPs approved an opposition motion to suspend proceedings to delay the media law vote.

In the end, the session resumed and the media law passed by 228 votes in favour and 216 against in the 460-seat lower house of parliament.

Disturbance In US

On Tuesday, thousands of people came to the streets of Poland to protest against the draft law. Due to the disturbances in the United States caused by the draft legislation, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, warning that it “threatens media freedom and could undermine Poland’s strong investment climate”.

Earlier in the parliamentary session, the government was defeated in four key votes, a day after a junior partner quit the PiS-led governing coalition.

MPs voted 229 to 227 in one vote to suspend the session in order to postpone a vote on the media law. Despite howls of outrage from the opposition, speaker Elzbieta Witek, a PiS member, ordered another vote, which the government won by 230 to 225 to resume proceedings.

Fraudsters! Fraudsters! “The MPs chanted, accusing the government of buying support to win the vote.

“The parliamentary majority, glued together with the mud of corruption and blackmail, is crumbling before our eyes,” tweeted former European Union chief Donald Tusk, who leads the opposition Civic Platform.

“It may go on for a while but it is no longer able to govern.”

The lost votes do not necessarily mean that the government will fall, as a formal vote of no confidence would be required – and PiS could potentially continue as a minority government.

However, commentators have suggested that a minority government would be difficult to sustain in the long run because it would have to rely on the far-right Confederation party, which is highly critical of the government.

The next elections are scheduled for 2023. The United Rights coalition, which is dominated by the PiS, has governed Poland since 2015.

It has been accused by the EU of rolling back democratic freedoms, but is still popular among many Poles, mainly for its social welfare reforms.

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