A proposed law change in Poland that would ban non-European ownership of Polish media has upset some opposition MPs, who say it would hamper criticism of the right-wing government.
The legislative changes put forward by the governing Law and Justice Party were published late on Wednesday on the Polish parliament”s website.
Critics read it as the latest in a string of attempts by the government to control the domestic media since it came to power in 2015 – and one that would specifically target the broadcaster TVN, which is owned by U.S. firm Discovery Inc.
TVN’s all-news TVN24 channel has previously exposed alleged irregularities and scandals, drawing the ire of leading Law and Justice Party members including the MEP Joachim Brudziński, who has claimed the channel lacks objectivity.
On Thursday, Polish MP Joanna Senyszyn, a member of the opposition Left Party, said on Twitter that the government had “filed a draft law aimed at eliminating TVN and TVN24 from Poland’s media market. We give no consent to that.”
TVN also issued a statement saying the proposed changes were “intended to silence us and to deprive the viewers of their right to choose.”
It added: “Under the false pretence of a fight against foreign propaganda, an attempt is being made to limit the freedom of the media. We will not surrender to any pressure and will remain independent in acting on behalf of our viewers.”
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, however, stood by the unexpected draft changes on Thursday, telling lawmakers they would prevent “outside bodies” – referring to groups outside the European Economic Area – from influencing public debate without the approval of the Polish regulator. “Every serious country should have such instruments,” he said.
The proposed changes come after Discovery Inc. has been waiting for more than 12 months for the extension of TVN24′s license, which expires on September 26 this year
Discovery bought the broadcaster in 2018 from another U.S. media company and manages it though a Netherlands-based entity, Polish Television Holding BV.
One interpretation of the new law would require non-European investors to own no more than 49 percent stakes in Polish media companies. On Thursday, Deputy Infrastructure Minister Marcin Horala has insisted the proposed changes were “not about closing TVN” but suggested Discovery could get past them by selling some of its shares to a European investor.