EU: Expert on fears of Poland being 'marginalised'
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The European Commission has raised the prospect of EU-wide legislation to protect the bloc against perceived attacks on freedom of speech and media pluralism. It comes after eurocrats accused Poland of flouting EU values after its parliament passed a controversial bill that could force the sale of the country’s main independent broadcaster. The legislation, put forward by the ruling Law and Justice party, would stop companies from outside the European Economic Area owning a majority in Polish media firms.
It means that US media group Discovery would have to sell its controlling stake in TVN, which is often critical of the government.
The European Commission has raised concerns that the draft legislation has a negative effect on Poland’s media freedoms.
Justice commissioner Vera Jourova said: “Media pluralism and diversity of opinions are what strong democracies welcome, not fight against.
“The draft Polish broadcasting law sends a negative signal.
“We need a Media Freedom Act in the whole EU to uphold media freedom and support the rule of law.”
A spokesman for the Commission said that the Brussels-based executive had raised concerns over media freedoms in Poland in its latest “rule of law” report.
Eurocrats and Warsaw have been at loggerheads over the post-communist reforms being carried out by the country’s nationalist conservative government.
Discovery has branded the bill as “an attack on core democratic principles of freedom of speech, the independence of media”.
The firm said it was “directly discriminatory against TVN and Discovery”.
It also appealed to Poland’s Senate and president, who must approve the legislation, to prevent it becoming law.
Discovery said: “Poland’s future as a democratic country in the international arena and its credibility in the eyes of investors depend on this.”
Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski said the bill was needed to protect Poland from money launderers and “narco-businesses” trying to buy into its media sector.
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It was also claimed the new law would stop firms from undemocratic states from controlling Polish media groups.
The US government has also attacked the legislation.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington was “deeply troubled” by the draft bill.
He claimed it would weaken Poland’s media environment and undermine its attractiveness to outside investors.
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“Large US commercial investments in Poland tie our prosperity together and enhance our collective security,” he said.
“A free and independent media makes our democracies stronger, the transatlantic alliance more resilient, and is fundamental to the bilateral relationship.”
Experts have claimed the draft legislation will likely spark public anger.
“This media law is a way for the government to gain more propaganda power by killing off a powerful opposition voice,” Piotr Buras, head of the Warsaw office of the European Council for Foreign Relations, told The Independent.
He added: “Law and Justice would not have put the law to a vote if they had not been certain of winning. But it was still a very risky bet for the party.”
Marcin Zaborowski, policy director of the Globsec think-tank, said: “On the American side, the legislative and executive powers have made it clear to Warsaw that proceeding with this law won’t go without consequences to Polish-American relations.
“Pushing for the law regardless of these clear messages means that Law and Justice doesn’t care anymore about maintaining a good relationship between Poland and the US.”
Opposition parties failed in their efforts to delay or postpone the vote, which was shoved through by the government without the support of one of its junior coalition partners.
The law eventually passed on Wednesday by 228 votes to 216 in the 460-seat lower house.
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