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27 Dec, 2021 15:03

Polish president vetoes bill that would have affected US-owned channel

Poland's leader Andrzej Duda refuses to toe party line on foreign media critical of conservatives
Polish president vetoes bill that would have affected US-owned channel

Poland’s president has shot down a media bill that would have tightened the screws on foreign-funded media, with a US-owned channel among the obvious targets.

Andrzej Duda announced his decision on Monday, saying that he shared concerns voiced by some sections of Polish society over media pluralism and that he also did not want to strain relations with Warsaw’s key partner, Washington. The president added, however, that “generally limiting the possibility of holding shares or stocks in media companies is sensible when it comes to foreign capital,” speaking in favor of such legislation being introduced later. For now, though, the bill was remitted back to Parliament.

Had it been given the green light, the new piece of legislation would have potentially taken off the air any media outlet operating in Poland and owned by a non-EU resident, or those with more than 49% shares in the hands of foreigners. Critics claimed the legislation was specifically designed to gag the US-owned TVN24 channel, which has consistently criticized the Polish government.

The bill had been previously vetoed and shelved by the Polish Senate, however, in mid-December the lower house overturned its decision and passed the legislation during its final session in 2021. Back in August, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he was “deeply troubled” by the proposed bill – an attitude also echoed by the European Commission this month.

Explaining the need for tighter controls, the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) conservative party argued that foreign-owned media outlets had too much sway in Poland.

Back in 2015, Andrzej Duda was backed by the Law and Justice party when he was elected president. Yet, with his decision to veto the media bill now, the Polish president essentially broke ranks with the conservatives on this key issue.