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The European Commission on Monday said it was “following…with concern” developments in Poland after the country’s parliament last week pushed through a new law that critics say could severally restrict media freedom in the country.
Polish lawmakers on Friday voted to overturn a senate veto of the controversial media bill, which would make it illegal for any non-European company to hold a majority stake in a television or radio broadcaster in Poland.
Critics say the law was designed to target U.S. media group Discovery, which controls Polish broadcaster TVN Group. One of TVN’s channels, popular news network TVN24, has been openly critical of Poland’s government and the ruling right-wing Law and Justice party. Following Friday’s vote, the new media law must now be approved by Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda.
Critics of the legislation took to the streets across the country over the weekend, protesting what they see as an attack on media freedom. TVN launched an online petition on Sunday calling on President Duda to veto the bill. By Sunday evening, it had garnered some 2 million signatures, in a country of 38 million people.
“The attack on media freedom has far-reaching consequences for the future of Poland,” the petition reads. “Mutual relations with the USA, the greatest ally and guarantor of our country’s security, are being destroyed. We cannot allow it!”
Discovery on Friday condemned the new legislation as an “attack” on freedom of speech and a threat to the future of independent media in the country.
“The vote that took place on Friday puts further pressure on the media sector on Poland,” a spokesperson for the European Commission said Monday. “It may lead to limitation of media freedom in Poland, where the media landscape already suffers under growing politicization.”
Government backers of the new law say it is needed to protect Polish broadcasters against being bought up by state-controlled players from non-democratic countries like Russia or China.
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