Polish lawmakers debate contested media reform bill – The First News


Polish lawmakers debated on Wednesday an amendment to the broadcasting law that would introduce a ban on non-EU ownership of national media as the Sejm, the lower house, decided to move the controversial bill to second reading .

The draft amendment, tabled by MEPs from Law and Justice (PiS), the dominant party in the Polish coalition of united rights, specifies that only entities with their headquarters in countries of the European Economic Area (EEA) can be granted a broadcast license, provided that they are not dependent on entities outside the EEA.

Discovery, an American company, owns TVN, Poland’s largest independent television channel, which has criticized the government ruled by law and justice. Many observers believe the amendment to the media bill is aimed at silencing the station. TVN24, a news channel owned by TVN, has been trying to renew its license since February 2020. Its current license expires on September 26.

A prominent ruling party (PiS) MP Marek Suski told the Sejm on Wednesday that his party would submit amendments to the contested bill, extending the transition period, so that “a certain channel (TVN – PAP) can adjust its shares to Polish regulation. “

Suski argued that media regulations in other countries were stricter.

“No one accuses the governments of our friends in the European Union of a lack of freedom of expression,” he said. “All countries defend their media market against excessive participation of external capital, because the media market is a very important condition of freedom,” he added.

Suski was challenged by Borys Budka, the parliamentary caucus leader of the Civic Coalition’s main opposition bloc.

“And you talk about freedom of the media? You are just afraid of the media,” he said, adding that the ruling party was following “models” such as the Russian, Belarusian and Turkish presidents, Vladimir Putin, Alexander Lukashenko and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Budka also accused Law and Justice of risking conflict with the United States by forcing changes to the so-called media law, thus endangering Poland’s security.

Suski said PiS believes that the United States, “a bastion of democracy and the rule of law, will derive no consequence for the benefit of a company that breaks Polish law.”

Joanna Scheuring-Wielgus, from the Left Party, said that if the PiS is allowed to pass the bill, the party will also propose regulations to take over the Polish-owned media.

“Tomorrow they will hit (news portal) Onet and (private broadcaster) Radio Zet, and the day after tomorrow they will submit a proposal that cannot be rejected to (news portal) Wirtualna Polska and (private television) Polsat, and the proposition will be: ‘either sell or we will finish you off’. “

Polish People’s Agrarian Party (PSL) leader Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz said the media bill would damage Poland’s relations with the United States.

“They will classify us as Belarus and so on. Relations will be frozen, maybe the troops will be withdrawn. And you say it is a matter of security. We will tell you: I am checking,” he said. he declares.

Kosiniak-Kamysz added that to verify the credibility of the PiS, his caucus will also submit an amendment “concerning the countries which should be covered by this ban”.

“We propose to exclude the countries belonging to NATO from this group, because the organization is the guarantor of our security”, he declared.

Last week, a group of prominent US senators warned the Polish government against passing the legislation, which they said would hamper trade and defense relations between Poland and the United States.

On Tuesday, thousands of people demonstrated across Poland to defend media freedom, opposing the bill.

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