Poland's Lower House Passes Controversial Media Bill

The lower house of parliament of Poland has passed a controversial media bill targeting the country’s biggest independent broadcaster TVN. The bill was put forward by (PiS), Poland’s conservative nationalist Law and Justice party. The bill aims to prevent non-European Union companies from holding a major stake in any of the media companies in Poland. TVN is owned by US media giant Discovery and is known for its critical coverage of the Polish government. Discovery described the bill as “an attack on core democratic principles of freedom of speech, the independence of the media,” adding that it was “directly discriminatory against TVN and Discovery.” The media giant has appealed to the country’s Senate and president, whose approval is needed for the bill to become a law. “Poland’s future as a democratic country in the international arena and its credibility in the eyes of investors depends on this.”

The US secretary of state Anthony Blinken mentioned the US was “deeply troubled” by the bill and that it would significantly impact the country’s media environment along with Poland’s investment climate. “Large US commercial investments in Poland tie our prosperity together and enhance our collective security.” Many MPs from the country’s conservative party (PiS) said that the above changes would be helpful in cases where companies from undemocratic states try to take control of media companies in Poland. "This draft legislation threatens media freedom and could undermine Poland’s strong investment climate." An opposition party lawmaker Grzegorz Schetyna said in a tweet that Wednesday’s vote was “an attack on freedom, an attack on media that is independent from the government.”

This is not the first time the US called on Poland not to continue with a piece of legislation. Anthony Blinken recently called on the country to not go forward with legislation that would make it harder for Jews to recover their property that was seized during the holocaust by Nazi Germans. “We are deeply concerned that Poland’s parliament passed legislation today severely restricting the process for Holocaust survivors and their families, as well as other Jewish and non-Jewish property owners, to obtain restitution for property wrongfully confiscated during Poland’s communist era,” Blinken said adding “We urge that President (Andrzej) Duda not sign the bill into law or that, in line with the authority granted to him as President, he refer the bill to Poland’s constitutional tribunal.” The country’s lower house and the Senate has passed the bill, meaning it only needs the president’s approval now to become a law. Blinken also mentioned the importance of Poland as an ally in NATO. “These pieces of legislation run counter to the principles and values for which modern, democratic nations stand. We urge the government of Poland to demonstrate its commitment to these shared principles not only in words but also in deeds.” Yair Lapid, the Israeli Foreign Minister, commented on the bill, mentioning that it is not only damaging to the memory of the Holocaust but also its victims. When PiS came to power in Poland the country ranked 18th out of 164 countries on the World Freedom Index and now it ranks at 64th position.