Polish President Andrzej Duda on Monday vetoed a controversial media law suspected by critics of being a tool in the hands of the right-wing populist government to silence independent news channel TVN24, controlled by the American Discovery. “I refuse to sign the amendment on radio and television and send it back to Parliament for reconsideration. This means that I am vetoing it, ”Andrzej Duda said on Monday in a television ad, which follows strong American and European criticism.
The text, adopted by the Polish parliament on December 17 and wanted by the populist PiS (Law and Justice) party in power, was intended to prevent companies not belonging to the European Economic Area (EEA, which includes the 27 states of the ‘EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) to hold majority stake in Polish media companies.
Discovery in turmoil?
This was to force the American group Discovery to sell its stake in TVN, one of the largest private television networks in Poland. TVN24 is his 24-hour news channel, considered critical of the ruling conservatives. The government for its part affirmed that the law should protect the Polish media landscape against potentially hostile actors, such as Russia.
Andrzej Duda said he remained true to this principle, but the law should not undermine existing investments or go against international agreements. “The people I have spoken to are concerned about this situation. They have different arguments. They spoke of peace and quiet… We don’t need a new conflict, a new problem. We already have a lot of problems, ”said the president.
Effective pressure stroke
A spokesperson for the European Commission underlined that this law presented « serious risks for the freedom and pluralism of the media in Poland ». TVN welcomed the announcement, welcoming the Polish president’s choice of « good relations with the United States ».
Thousands of people demonstrated on December 19 in front of the Presidency in Warsaw and elsewhere in the country, waving EU flags and chanting « Free media! » And « We want a veto! » « .
Former Polish Prime Minister and former European Council President Donald Tusk, who heads the opposition Civic Platform party, said President Duda’s decision showed that « pushing makes sense ». The PiS already controls public television TVP, which has become a major asset of the populist government, and most of the regional press.