Poland The president said on Monday that the US company Discovery had decided to veto a media bill that would force it to relinquish its majority stake in Polish television network TVN.
For many, it is a victory for freedom of speech and media freedom in a country where democratic standards are being challenged by a nationalist government. The veto should also be welcomed by Washington, which has sought to secure a major US investment in Poland.
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President Andrzej Duda noted that the bill was unpopular with many poles and would damage Poland’s reputation as a trading hub.
“Agreements must be respected,” Duda told a news conference in Warsaw after announcing his veto. “For us Poles, this is a question of respect.”
The bill, recently passed by the lower house of parliament, would prevent non-European companies from owning more than 49% of the capital of television or radio stations in Poland.
Its practical effect, Discovery Inc. Targeting only one company, the US owner of TVN, Poland’s largest private television network, was forced to sell most of its Polish shares, if not all.
Polish heads of government introduced the law, arguing that it was important for national security and sovereignty to ensure that companies outside Europe could not control companies that would help shape public opinion.
Many more poles saw the bill being introduced by the ruling law and justice party, which has partnered with Duda to try to pacify it through a broadcaster’s 24-hour news channel, TVN24, and a broadcaster. The evening news was seen on its main channel. By millions of people.
There have been massive protests across the country recently in support of the station and freedom of expression in general. Speaking at the protest, Donald Tusk, leader of the opposition centrist Civic Platform Party, said the Tuta decision showed the importance of US pressure – and pressure from the streets.
“It simply came to our notice then. We can and we should, ”Dusk said on Twitter.
Discovery has threatened to sue Poland at an international tribunal, saying it will fight for its investment. The network was first bought by another American company, Scripps Networks Interactive, for $ 2 billion and later sold to Discovery.
It is the largest U.S. investment ever made in Poland, and the company now estimates TVN’s value at $ 3 billion.
Duda said the bill violated the terms of the Polish-US economic agreement signed in the 1990s and could have cost Poland billions of dollars in sanctions if he had signed it.
Duda said he agrees with the principle that countries should restrict foreign ownership of media outlets, adding that such legislation exists in many democracies, including the United States, France and Germany.
He said he supports such legislation that would affect future investments. But in the case of TVN, he argued, the law would harm a company already operating legally in Poland.
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He also shared the opinion of many of his Polish comrades that the bill was not needed at this time, considering other issues, including epidemics and inflation.
Discovery welcomed Tuda’s decision, saying, “We commend the President for the right thing to do and for the fundamental democratic values of the independent press and the rule of law, and we want to thank everyone, the audience and all those who supported this. Important issue. . ”