Opposition attacks draft law aimed to prevent non-EU media takeovers

Lawmakers from Poland's main opposition bloc, Civic Coalition, fiercely attacked a draft amendment tabled by ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party MPs that would prevent non-EU companies taking control of Polish radio and television stations.

Deputy Speaker of the Sejm (lower house) Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska and Cezary Tomczyk, the head of the Civic Coalition (KO) caucus, told a press conference on Thursday that the proposed changes were meant to silence US-owned broadcaster TVN.

The proposed legislation has heightened fears amongst government critics that Law and Justice intends to crack down on media it regards as unduly critical or of failing to represent what it regards as Polish interests.

"We have no doubt that this law applies to one station and that is 'Lex TVN'," Tomczyk said. "Today it is TVN, tomorrow it may be Polsat, next it may be radio TOK FM, later it can be Gazeta Wyborcza, then it can be any free medium in Poland.

"This government is scared of the truth," he added.

"I would like to send a warning to all parliamentarians of the United Right (ruling coalition - PAP): do not dare lay your hands on the free media, because Poles will not allow you to overstep these limits," Tomczyk continued.

He also suggested that consultations on the proposed amendment should be held among all parliamentary caucuses.

Earlier on Thursday, Mateusz Morawiecki, the prime minister, defended the proposal, saying that it is in line with laws already existing in Western European countries.

On Thursday evening, the US charge d'affaires in Warsaw Bix Aliu wrote on Twitter: "The US has been observing the TVN licensing process and the newly proposed legislation with rising concern. TVN has been an essential part of the Polish media landscape for over 20 years."  

He added: "Unfettered press is crucial for democracy."