Polish lawmakers overturn senate veto on disputed media law

Dec 17, 2021, 8:02 AM | Updated: 1:03 pm

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s president will have the final decision on a controversial media bill seen as targeting a U.S.-owned TV network that’s often critical of the Polish government, after lawmakers on Friday overturned a Senate veto on the proposed legislation.

In its last session of the year, the lower house, or Sejm, unexpectedly returned to the draft law that had seemed on freeze after the upper house rejected it in September. The lower house voted 229-212, with 11 abstentions, to reject the Senate’s veto.

Now the bill, which has already been approved by the Sejm, only needs backing from President Andrzej Duda to become law. But Duda has indicated he sees it as “controversial” and “incomprehensible” to the United States, citing the U.S. attitude toward the protection of property and freedom of speech.

He can either approve it, reject it or send to the Constitutional Tribunal — which is friendly to the right-wing government — for assessment.

The law would prevent any non-European entity from owning more than a 49% stake in television or radio broadcasters in Poland.

Its practical effect would be to force Discovery Inc., the U.S. owner of Poland’s largest private television network, TVN, to sell the majority or even all of its Polish holdings. Discovery Inc. is the only non-European media owner in Poland and the law is seen as targeting it.

Discovery Inc. said the outcome of Friday’s “surprise vote in the Polish Parliament should be deeply concerning to any enterprise investing in Poland and to anyone who cares about democracy and freedom of the press.”

“Through this vote, Poland risks directly undermining the values that have connected Poland with Europe, and uprooting the foundation of the Polish-American relationship,” the company said in a statement.

It appealed to Duda to “prevent” the bill from becoming law.

The top U.S. diplomat in Poland, Embassy charge d’affaires Bix Aliu, said on Twitter that the U.S. was “extremely disappointed by today’s passage of the media bill by the Sejm.”

“We expect President Duda to act in accordance with previous statements to use his leadership to protect free speech and business,” Aliu said.

TVN management said the vote was an “unprecedented attack on free media” that targeted the U.S., a key security and economic ally of Poland’s.

It said Discovery Group and Discovery Inc. will defend its interests and investment in Poland and use “all legal ways to ensure that the mission of our media is continued.”

The management said it trusts that Duda will veto the so-called Lex TVN, “in line with his earlier statements.”

Opposition groups on Facebook called for a street protest on Sunday night.

A top European Union official for values, Vera Jourova, condemned the vote on Twitter as targeting the TVN Group and putting ” further pressure on an already troubled media sector in Poland.

If the bill becomes law the EU Commission, the 27-member bloc’s executive arm, “will not hesitate to take action in case of non-compliance with EU law,” said Jourova, who is the commission’s vice-president for values and transparency.

Poland’s right-wing coalition government is in conflict with EU bodies over policies seen as violating the principles of democracy and rule of law. Since being elected in 2015, the government has been taking steps to take control of the media, the judiciary and other areas like education.

The main nationalist ruling party, Law and Justice, which proposed the media law in the summer, has argued that it’s a matter of national security to prevent outside bodies from being able to influence Polish public opinion. Its members insisted the law is to protect against ownership coming from non-democratic countries like Russia or China.

Party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Poland’s most influential politician, maintained that state-owned companies will not be buying TVN and that it will most probably remain critical of the government.

The unexpected and last-minute vote on the controversial law drew protests from opposition parties, which allege there was a breach of procedures in the sudden return to the bill.

Opposition leaders also appealed to Duda to veto the bill.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - in this Aug. 27, 2020, file photo, Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes speaks during a news co...
Associated Press

Wisconsin Democrats focus ire on Republican Sen. Johnson

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Democrats looking to unseat Republican Sen. Ron Johnson focused their attacks on him Sunday, and not each other, as the eight candidates made their case to party activists at the state convention held six weeks before the primary. The Democratic Senate candidates blasted Johnson for his attempt to deliver fake […]
11 hours ago
FILE - Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen arrives to meet with Irish Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe ...
Associated Press

EXPLAINER: What’s the impact of a Russian debt default?

Russia is poised to default on its foreign debt for the first time since the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, further alienating the country from the global financial system following sanctions imposed over its war in Ukraine. The country faces a Sunday night deadline to meet a 30-day grace period on interest payments originally due May 27. […]
11 hours ago
Associated Press

Detroit woman charged after body of son, 3, found in freezer

DETROIT (AP) — A Detroit woman has been charged in the death of her 3-year-old son after police found the boy’s decomposing body in a basement freezer. The 31-year-old woman is charged with first-degree murder, child abuse and torture and concealing the death of an individual, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said Sunday. She was […]
11 hours ago
April Aamodt holds a Mormon cricket in her hand in Blalock Canyon near Arlington, Ore. on Friday, J...
Associated Press

‘Biblical’ insect swarms spur Oregon push to fight pests

ARLINGTON, Ore. (AP) — Driving down a windy canyon road in northern Oregon rangeland, Jordan Maley and April Aamodt are on the look out for Mormon crickets, giant insects that can ravage crops. “There’s one right there,” Aamodt says. They’re not hard to spot. The insects, which can grow larger than 2 inches (5 centimeters), […]
11 hours ago
Leili Ghazi, a 22-year-old immigrant from Iran, sits for a photo in Pasadena, Calif., Tuesday, June...
Associated Press

Former Iran conscripts say unfairly blocked from US travel

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Two years ago, Leili Ghazi quit studying biomedical engineering in Iran and seized the chance to travel to the United States to build a new life for herself and her parents. Now, the 22-year-old is separated indefinitely from her family because her father performed required military service more than two decades […]
11 hours ago
Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Road to Majority conference Friday, June 17, 2022, in N...
Associated Press

Trump’s lasting legacy grows as Supreme Court overturns Roe

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden rarely mentions his predecessor by name. But as he spoke to a nation processing a seismic shift in the rights of women, he couldn’t ignore Donald Trump’s legacy. “It was three justices named by one president — Donald Trump — who were the core of today’s decision to upend […]
11 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Update your child’s vaccines before kindergarten

So, your little one starts kindergarten soon. How exciting! You still have a few months before the school year starts, so now’s the time to make sure students-to-be have the vaccines needed to stay safe as they head into a new chapter of life.
Christina O’Haver

BE FAST to spot a stroke

Every 40 seconds—that’s how often someone has a stroke in the United States. It’s the fifth leading cause of death among Americans, with someone dying of a stroke every 3.5 minutes.
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

ADHS mobile program brings COVID-19 vaccines and boosters to Arizonans

The Arizona Department of Health Services and partner agencies are providing even more widespread availability by making COVID-19 vaccines available in neighborhoods through trusted community partners.
Polish lawmakers overturn senate veto on disputed media law