Poland: Senate rejects controversial media ownership bill

13 September 2021

Bill criticised as a serious threat to independent news media and media freedom has been rejected by Poland’s Senate. But there are fears the bill could still pass following its return to the Sejm.  

Warsaw, Poland - July 10, 2021: View on TVN and Discovery television headquarters at Wiertnicza street. Credit: MOZCO Mateusz Szymanski/Shutterstock.com

The Public Media Alliance once again calls on members of the Sejm (Poland’s lower house of parliament) to vote against bill aimed at curtailing foreign ownership of Polish broadcasters.

There are serious concerns that the “lex TVN” bill will be used to muzzle critics and rein in critical outlets such as TVN, one of the country’s largest private broadcasters. TVN is owned by US media group Discovery, which would be forced to sell its majority stake in the company. Campaigners fear that this will force it to shift its editorial position ahead of the next elections.

The ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) insist that the bill is in the interest of national security by limiting outsiders from influencing public opinion. But the bill goes hand-in-hand with PiS’s previous attempts to control the media narrative. Since 2015, the ruling party has effectively dismantled Poland’s public media, resulting in the public broadcaster TVP being used as a pro-government mouthpiece and accused of broadcasting hate speech during last year’s general election.

Background: Poland’s senate must reject media ownership bill (12 Aug 2021)

While there are fears that the bill will be approved upon its return to the Sejm, there are also hopes that the PiS’s thin majority, recent defections and the President’s disapproval will make this round of voting unsuccessful. The President has also said that he could veto the bill, according to Deutsche Welle.

It is also hoped that extensive criticism from the EU and denouncements from key strategic allies such as the US, will help spur a rejection from the Sejm.

The Public Media Alliance continues to condemn attempts to muzzle independent and critical media in Poland. Effective democracy relies on a free and plural media environment, ideally bolstered by public media, that can hold power to account and inform citizens. We call on the Sejm to firmly reject this bill.