Polish President Vetoes Media Bill, Bending to U.S. Pressure
(Bloomberg) -- Poland’s President Andrzej Duda vetoed a bill that would force Discovery Inc. to sell most of the country’s most popular private television network, defusing a row that strained relations with the U.S.
The bill, adopted in a surprise parliamentary vote on Dec. 17, blindsided Washington and sent thousands of Poles to the streets in protest over what they saw as the ruling nationalists attempt to muzzle an independent broadcaster. If implemented, the law would have forced the U.S. media giant to sell more than 50% in its local unit.
“We agreed to something and we need to keep our word,” Duda said at a press conference referring to a treaty Poland had signed with the U.S. back in 1990. “Most of my compatriots don’t want any more disputes.”
The legislation put Duda in a tight spot. A former member of the ruling Law & Justice party, he was pressed by his political allies to sign the legislation without delay. Meanwhile, the U.S. urged the NATO-member to veto the bill, arguing it would harm investor sentiment and media freedom. Discovery also vowed to fight against the proposed changes.
TVN’s influential news channel has been a thorn in the government’s side, chronicling instances of sleaze and corruption by the ruling party during their six-year reign. Poland’s nationalist leaders said the new rules are needed to protect against media takeovers by companies from countries such as Russia and China.
While Duda agreed Poland needed legislation that would protect its media market from unwanted owners, he said such a law needed to be introduced in a way that wouldn’t violate any agreements and would give current owners a fair chance to sell their stakes.
He also said signing the controversial media law would open up another battlefield in the country at a time it’s fighting the Covid-19 pandemic and a spike in inflation.
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