Thousands in Poland protest law that would force Discovery to sell its channel

Thousands of demonstrators gathered outside the Polish presidential palace on Sunday to protest a media law passed last week that bans foreign companies from holding significant stakes in Polish media, with critics claiming they are targeting a channel owned at Discovery Inc.

Discovery owns the Polish television company TVN Group, which in turn controls Poland’s most watched news channel, TVN24, known for its criticism of the ruling conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party. .

Under the law, companies located outside the European Economic Area would not be allowed to own controlling interests in local media companies, essentially forcing Discovery to sell its control of the TVN Group if it were ratified.

After it was passed by parliament, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki defended the bill and said it was not designed to specifically target TVN.

As Reuters reported, protesters complained that the law – which has yet to be signed by Polish President Andrzej Duda – was an attack on media freedom. Demonstrations took place outside the capital Warsaw, demonstrators also gathered in the southern city of Krakow.

Warsaw mayor Rafal Trzaskowski, a former opposition presidential candidate, attended the protest, Reuters reported, telling the crowd: “This is not just one channel.”

“In a moment (there will be) internet censorship, an attempt to shut down all independent sources of information – but we will not allow that to happen,” Trzaskowski said.

After the law was passed, Discovery issued a statement saying: “TVN / Discovery is extremely concerned about the outcome of the vote in the Sejm of the Republic of Poland on the amendment to the Broadcasting Law, but remains committed to defending the rights of the Polish people and of the TVN enterprise. “

“The law as passed is an attack on the fundamental democratic principles of freedom of expression, independence of the media and directly discriminates against TVN and Discovery,” the company added.

State Department spokesman Ned Price also released a statement last week saying the United States was “troubled” by the new law and feared it “would weaken media freedom.”

“We encourage President Duda to reaffirm his past statements on upholding the shared democratic standards that underpin our relationship and his commitment to uphold the constitutional principles of freedom of expression, freedom to engage in economic activity, property rights and equal treatment before the law, ”Price says.

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