Berlin, September 15, 2021 — Polish lawmakers should reject an amendment to the country’s broadcast media law that threatens the independence of commercial television broadcaster TVN24, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
The draft amendment, which CPJ reviewed, would change Article 35 of the Broadcasting Act to restrict broadcast licenses solely to companies that are majority-owned by entities inside the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway. It would thereby block the license of TVN24, one of the country’s most popular news channels, whose parent company TVN is owned by the U.S.-based media group Discovery Inc., according to Reuters.
TVN24’s license is scheduled to expire on September 26, according to that report, which noted that the outlet’s programming is frequently critical of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party.
Lawmakers in the Sejm, the lower house of parliament, plan to vote on the amendment before the end of the month, PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, told Polish state news agency PAP.
“Polish lawmakers should reject the proposed amendment to the country’s Broadcasting Act, which is a transparent effort to target TVN24 for its independent and critical reporting,” said CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Gulnoza Said, in New York. “The proposed amendment would endanger the diversity of media in Poland and impose unnecessary obstacles on news outlets.”
The amendment first passed the Sejm on August 12, but the Senate rejected it on September 10, according to reports by The Associated Press. If the Sejm approves the bill again, it can pass directly to President Andrzej Duda to be enacted, according to those reports, which said that Duda has said he would not sign the bill in its current form.
Following the first approval by the Sejm, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington was “deeply troubled” by the bill, which he said targeted the most-watched independent news station in Poland and one of the largest U.S. investments in the country, according to reports.
CPJ emailed the press department of the PiS party for comment, but did not immediately receive any reply.