Warsaw (dpa) – An amendment to the broadcasting law approved by the Polish parliament is straining the relationship between Warsaw and Washington. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said his country was “deeply concerned” about the law.
Blinken called on the government in Warsaw to show its commitment to democratic values and freedom of the press. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki rejected Washington’s warning on Thursday. Criticism also came from the President of the EU Parliament and from journalists’ associations.
The parliament in Warsaw had voted with a majority on Wednesday evening in favor of the controversial draft law of the national conservative ruling party PiS.
Is private broadcaster TVN the target?
The amendment stipulates that in future broadcasting licenses in Poland may only be issued to foreigners if they “have their headquarters or domicile in the European Economic Area”. In addition, the condition applies that the license holder may not be dependent on someone whose principal place of residence or residence is outside this economic area. According to critics, the law focuses on the private broadcaster TVN, which is part of the American group Discovery through a holding company registered in the Netherlands. The news channel TVN24 represents a line that is critical of the PiS.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki responded to Blinken’s criticism that the experts in Washington should first analyze what exactly it was about. “There are no intentions here regarding specific TV channels.” Rather, the aim is to make the regulation so seamless that companies from outside the EU cannot buy media in Poland. Relations between Poland and the US have been traditionally good, but have cooled recently with the transition from former US President Donald Trump to Joe Biden.
«No freedom without free media»
However, European Parliament President David Sassoli described the law as a serious threat to independent television in the country. “There can be no freedom without free media,” he wrote on Twitter.
The amendment was a “coffin nail for the remnants of press and broadcasting freedom in Poland,” said the federal chairman of the German Association of Journalists (DJV), Frank Überall. The DJV appealed to the Senate, the lower house of the Polish parliament, to block the law.
The amendment to the law has not yet been decided. After the first chamber of parliament, the Sejm, has approved the amendment, it now goes to the second chamber, the Senate. Here the opposition is in charge. The Senate can overturn the bill, but the Sejm can override a no.
Poland’s national-conservative government alliance had previously collapsed in the conflict over the amendment. Morawiecki fired his deputy Jaroslaw Gowin on Tuesday. The Porozumenie group subsequently terminated its collaboration with the PiS. In the future, it should try to run a minority government.