Polish President Andrzej Duda has challenged a media ownership decision that would force US conglomerate Discovery to sell its largest stake in Poland’s largest independent radio station, TVN.
Bill, issued by members of the Conservative-Nationalist Law and Justice Party (PiS), strongly criticized both at home and abroad, and the US – Poland’s largest guarantor of security – warned that it threatened the freedom of the press and the economy.
Duda, a colleague of PiS, has already raised concerns about the bill, which would prevent companies from outside the European Economic Area from holding positions of control in Polish media.
In an address released on Monday, Mr Duda said he had decided to use a veto, warning that the money could violate a trade agreement signed with Poland with the US.
“Most of the people in our country. . . I do not want more fights. And my job as president is to do things to prevent this violence, ”he said. “If we did not sign the agreement – and we did not sign the agreement – we should keep it. If we do not keep our agreements with others, others will not keep their agreements with us.
Mr Duda also said he was concerned about the bill’s implications for media coverage.
Discovery hailed Duda’s election as “a victory for the Polish people”.
“We thank the president for doing the right thing and for standing up for the basic democratic principles of media freedom and law, and we want to thank all observers and anyone who has contributed to this issue,” the company said. words.
Bix Aliu, of the US Chargé d’affaires in Warsaw, also welcomed the move, and thanked Duda for “protecting the Polish economy”. “The allies are strong together,” he wrote on Twitter.
PiS lawmakers argued that the law was necessary to ban companies from non-democratic countries from importing Polish publications, party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, once said that Poland should protect itself from the entry of moneylenders and “narco businesses”. “. ”.
The law came in the wake of intense pressure from the independent media since PiS took office in 2015, and was widely regarded as an attack on TVN, which provides critical government coverage. This year Polish media outlets delayed the renewal of the broadcasting license of TVN’s premier TV channel, TVN24, until four days before it expired, even though the request was sent 19 months earlier.
Mr Duda said he often supported the idea of banning foreign ownership of Polish media, citing other countries’ restrictions, and called on the Polish parliament to consider the legislation. But he said that this should apply to the future, not the past.
He said that TVN was licensed to operate in Poland, and it was “operating its business. . . fully legal and accredited by Poland ”, and doubted that the six-month deadline within which the law would require the company to sell its control would allow it to receive a fair price.