On Friday of last week, the Polish parliament rushed through a new national law that would ban media outlets owned by non-Europeans. Many critics claim that the legislation targets the American-owned Discovery media group. Discovery controls Polish broadcaster TVN Group, whose popular news network show, TVN24, has openly criticized Poland’s ruling right-wing Law and Justice party.
When addressing the legislation, a spokesperson for the European Commission shared that this bill “may lead to limitation of media freedom in Poland, where the media landscape already suffers under growing politicization.” Discovery has also come forward with a statement, calling the bill an “attack” on freedom of speech and claiming that it threatens the future of independent media in Poland. Over this past weekend, masses of protestors gathered across Poland to decry the legislation.
According to Reuters, TVN also launched an online petition on Sunday to encourage Polish president Andrzej Duda to veto the bill. A portion of the petition reads, “The attack on media freedom has far-reaching consequences for the future of Poland…Mutual relations with the USA, the greatest ally and guarantor of our country’s security, are being destroyed. We cannot allow it!” In a country of 38 million people, over 2 million have already signed the petition. Government backers of the bill have shared that the necessity for the bill comes from the fear of state-controlled broadcasters from countries like Russia and China.
History is full of precedents that show how infringing on freedom of the press hampers democracy. So far, it seems as though the European Union has come forth with rhetoric but no clear plans of action. Moving forward, it is difficult to predict if calls from the European Commission or the TVN petition will likely change Duda’s decision to veto the bill or not. In a wider context, many European countries have seen a large shift of power to more right-wing political groups within the past five years. Given these developments, it makes it more unpredictable how other Europeans may react to the passing of this legislation, should it occur. Additionally, it is important to note that this legislation is also coming forward during a time when Russia’s presence is steadily growing around its shared border with Ukraine. Just as the spokesperson for the European Commission claimed, the world will closely follow the situation.
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