Polish ruling party ready to renew bid to pass media reform bill

September 15, 2021

by Anna Wlodarczak-Semzuk

WARSAW (Reuters) – The leader of Poland’s ruling party has indicated he will seek to reverse the Senate’s rejection of a media bill that opponents say aims to silence a US-owned channel that criticizes the government. does.

The bill outlines reforms that would strengthen sanctions on companies outside the European Economic Area that control Polish broadcasters. It has been condemned by the United States as a violation of media freedom.

In his first detailed remarks since the Senate rejected the bill on 9 September, Jarosaw Kaczyski, the leader of the ruling Law and Justice (PIS) party, clarified that the government would make a fresh attempt to win over parliament.

“The bill could be voted on before the end of September, during the next meeting on the bill,” Kazinski told PAP news agency in an interview published Wednesday.

The government does not have a majority in the Senate and only a small majority in the Sejm lower house.

PiS accused foreign media organizations of anti-government bias and said the draft law is aimed at ensuring fair news coverage.

Critics say it is part of a wider effort to silence the media and is aimed against TVN24, one of Poland’s biggest news channels.

TVN24’s parent, TVN, is owned by US-based media conglomerate Discovery Inc., through a firm registered in the Netherlands.

It avoids restrictions on companies that are majority-owned by entities outside the EEA – which group the EU countries and Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway – which own more than 49% of Polish media companies.

TVN24’s broadcasting license expires on 26 September. It is not clear whether the extension will be given.

If its Polish license is not renewed, TVN24 is likely to continue to operate on the Dutch license.

There is speculation in the media that the government may try to take over TVN24 through a government entity. Kaczynski denied interference from any state-owned company, including refiner PKN Orlen, gas company PGNIG or any bank.

If the bill gets parliamentary approval, it will still need the support of President Andrzej Duda. He is a PiS ally but has indicated that he may veto the law.

Signaling PiS was trying to win him over, Kaczynski told PAP: “He’s not someone who can’t be reassured.”

(Reporting by Anna Wlodarzak-Semzuk; Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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