US Congressmen warn Poland over changes to media law

Members of the US House of Representatives from both parties on Friday, in a joint statement, called on the Polish authorities to guarantee free and independent media and US investment in Poland.

"Congress will be watching closely as the fate of the new media law and the renewal of TVN’s license are decided and urges the Polish government to ensure a free, independent media as well as U.S. investments in Poland are safeguarded." six congressmen from the House Foreign Affairs Committee wrote in a joint statement.

In the statement, the politicians say that the adoption of the amendment to the media law would in effect throw the American Discovery company out of the Polish market.

A controversial proposal to change Poland’s media law, prepared by MPs from the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, specifies that only entities headquartered in European Economic Area (EEA) countries can be granted a broadcasting licence, provided they are not dependent on entities from outside the EEA.

Discovery is the owner of TVN, Poland’s largest independent television, that has been critical of the Law and Justice-led government. Many observers believe the amendment to the media bill is aimed at silencing the station. TVN24, a news channel owned by TVN, has been trying to renew its licence since February 2020. Its current licence expires on September 26.

US congressmen also maintain that the proposed bill is part of the "disturbing trend concerning independent media in Poland", which has been falling in the media freedom rankings for the last five years.

"Since the Solidarity movement precipitated Poland’s transition from a communist dictatorship to a liberal democracy, strong, steadfast, and bipartisan support for the U.S.-Poland relationship was founded on a shared commitment to democratic principles and the fundamental freedoms of all our citizens. We are therefore growing increasingly concerned about the ongoing attacks on the free press, independent judiciary and the rule of law in Poland," the congressmen wrote.

Among the signatories are Democrat chairman Gregory Meeks, the highest-ranking Republican member of the committee Michael McCaul, as well as Bill Keating and Gerry Connolly from the Democrats and Brian Fitzpatrick and Steve Chabot of the Republicans.

The statement is published several days after a similar opinion was expressed by a cross-party group of senators from the Senate's Foreign Affairs Committee. Senators warned then that the move against one of the largest American investments in Poland could negatively affect, among others, defence relations between Poland and the USA.

Earlier, representatives of the Department of State and the Ministry of Commerce were, on many occasions, critical of the draft being considered by the Sejm. The adviser to the head of US diplomacy, Derek Chollet, announced that President Joe Biden was also following the matter personally.