19/07/2021 Monday

PM defends controversial draft media law

The Polish prime minister has defended a draft amendment to a media law that critics say targets TVN24, a US-owned television news channel that has been highly critical of the government.

The draft amendment, lodged by ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party MPs in early July, is aimed at preventing companies from outside the European Economic Area from taking control of Polish radio and television stations.

"The law, which makes it possible for the Polish regulator to decide on whether a majority stake in a media entity could be purchased or not, is a completely normal act for every respectable state," Mateusz Morawiecki said in Krakow, southern Poland, on Monday.

The proposed amendment has increased fears that the government, which has sometimes accused foreign-owned media of having an anti-Polish bias and failing to represent what it regards as Polish interests, is taking aim at TVN in an attempt to silence it.

According to Morawiecki, the draft is in line with laws already existing in the US, France, Austria and "several other Western European countries."

"We consider ourselves a respectable European country and not one that can be entered by any investor who wants to buy shares in media groups, and later control public debate through the use of their stakes," he explained.

The prime minister admitted that public debate in the media should take place as Poland is a democracy, but he added that Poland could not accept a situation in which a foreign investor buys a majority stake without the consent of the Polish regulator.

TVN24 has been struggling to get a renewal of its licence from the state media regulator KRRiT since February 2020. Its current licence expires in September.