Pressure mounts on Polish government over media reform bill after Senate rejection
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WARSAW, September 9 (Reuters) – The upper house of the Polish parliament led by the opposition, the Senate, thursday rejected a broadcasting reform bill that critics say seeks to silence an anti-government news channel owned by the United States.
The reforms would strengthen the ban on companies outside the European Economic Area controlling Polish broadcasters and have been denounced by the United States, one of Warsaw’s main allies, as an attack on media freedoms.
The Senate voted against legislation by a 53-37 margin with 3 abstentions.
The legislation should now be sent back to the lower house of parliament, the Sejm, where the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) government is struggling to obtain a narrow majority and could try to overturn the rejection of the Senate.
But, in a sign the PiS strength Backing off amid growing international backlash, President Andrzej Duda, a PiS ally, has indicated he could veto the bill even if it goes through the Sejm.
PiS says the legislation is aimed at ensuring fair media coverage, accusing foreign media of anti-government bias. Critics say this is part of a larger effort to muzzle the media.
Since the party took office in 2015, Poland has fallen to 64th place, rising from 18th in the world ranking of media freedom.
The broadcast license for TVN24, the news channel most likely to be affected by the legislation, expires on September 26, but it is not clear whether it will receive an extension if the bill passes.
TVN24’s parent company, TVN, is owned by US media group Discovery Inc. DISCA.O via a company registered in the Netherlands in order to circumvent the ban on non-European companies owning more than 49% of Polish media companies.
Reform of the Broadcasting Act would remove this possibility.
“We are … still concerned about the future of TVN and independent media in Poland, as the bill can still be adopted by the Sejm and the license of our news channel TVN24 is still not renewed” , said Kasia Kieli, President and CEO. for Discovery in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Yes his The Polish license is not renewed, TVN24 would probably aim to continue to operate with a Dutch license.
Discovery said it would take legal action for discrimination if TVN24’s license is not expanded.
(Reporting by Joanna Plucinska and Anna Koper, additional reporting by Alan Charlish; Editing by John Stonestreet and Mark Heinrich)
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