Polish Parliament Passes Controversial Media Ownership Bill

The parliament in Poland passed on Aug. 11 a new media ownership law that opponents said was an attempt to silence the country’s largest remaining independent TV station.

In the 460-seat lower house of the Polish parliament, lawmakers approved the controversial law with 288 votes in favor, 216 against, and 10 abstentions.

The law would tighten existing rules that ban non-European companies from directly owning Polish media, which could lead to American media group Discovery to sell its TVN network, whose news channel TVN24 is often critical of the populist Law and Justice party.

The government said that the law was to prevent Chinese and Russian firms from taking control of its broadcasters.

However, the United States, a key military ally, has criticized the law and warned that it would harm their bilateral “defense, business, and trade relations.”

Discovery issued a statement after the vote, describing the bill as “an attack on core democratic principles of freedom of speech [and] the independence of the media,” according to British news outlet The Guardian.

Over 260 Polish journalists signed an open letter to protest against the law, describing it as “the destruction of media freedom in our country.”

Protests also took place across 100 towns and cities, including in Warsaw, on Aug. 10.

The vote came a day after Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki fired his deputy, Jarosław Gowin, for criticizing the law.

According to the government, Gowin had “undermined confidence” in its actions.

Gowin’s party, Accord, left the government following his removal. The departure of 13 members of parliament deprived the lower house of its one-vote majority.

The law now heads to the upper house of the parliament, the Senate, before returning to the lower house for final approval.

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