Poland pushes through new media law and angers the U.S.

Poland pushes through new media law and angers the U.S.

Polish lawmakers have approved a contentious media law that countries like the United States have vehemently opposed.

The bill, which passed the lower chamber of the Polish Parliament on Wednesday, prevents firms from outside the 30-nation European Economic Area from owning a majority stake in media companies based in the country. The law has yet to be ratified by the upper house of the Polish Parliament and signed by President Andrzej Duda.

As an example, the bill means that U.S. media giant Discovery might be forced to sell its stake in Polish broadcaster TVN.

“The United States is also deeply troubled by draft legislation passed today by the lower house of the Polish parliament that targets the most watched independent news station, which is also one of the largest U.S. investments in the country,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement Wednesday. “This draft legislation threatens media freedom and could undermine Poland’s strong investment climate.”

For its part, Discovery has also criticized the new law, describing it as being “discriminatory against TVN and Discovery,” according to the Financial Times.

The European Union, of which Poland has been a member since 2004, has condemned the new policy.

“Media pluralism and diversity of opinions are what strong democracies welcome, not fight against. The draft Polish broadcasting law sends a negative signal,” Vera Jourova, a member of the European Commission, said Thursday via Twitter.

The commission, the executive arm of the EU, and Poland have been at loggerheads in recent years, with the former complaining that the conservative government has taken different steps that undermine the core values of the bloc: namely press and judicial freedom.

In fact, the region’s top court ruled last month that a new Polish disciplinary procedure for judges violates European law.

Hungary, another EU member, has raised similar conflicts with European institutions. It recently imposed a new law that the Brussels-based commission sees as discriminatory toward the LGBTQ+ community.

As such, there are growing concerns about the future of these nations within the EU, with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte even saying that Hungary should leave the bloc.

New elections in Poland

The Polish approach doesn’t seem to be the consensus within its own borders.

The conservative Law and Justice Party has been the leading voice in government, supported by two junior parties. But the move to implement the new media law led to the resignation of the Agreement Party from the coalition and raises questions about the future leadership of the country.

Analysts at consultancy firm Eurasia Group expect early elections either later this year or in early 2022.

The political climate in Poland has changed so much in recent years that Donald Tusk, who served as Polish prime minister between 2007 and 2014, decided earlier this year to return to his country having worked at the highest level of European politics.

“Today, evil reigns in Poland and we want to fight it. That’s reason enough, you don’t need any other justification,” Tusk said when announcing his return to domestic politics in early July, according to Deutsche Welle.

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