By VANESSA GERA, Associated Press
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s Senate voted on Thursday to reject a media bill seen as targeting a U.S.-owned television network’s ability to keep broadcasting independent news.
However, the Senate has no power to stop it altogether. Even with the Senate rejection the bill can return to parliament’s lower house. If it passes there, it would then go to the president.
The bill’s chance of becoming law seems low now because President Andrzej Duda has said he would not sign it into law in its current form.
The bill, which passed parliament’s lower house last month, would prevent any non-European entity from owning more than a 49% stake in television or radio broadcasters in Poland.
Its practical effect would be to force Discovery Inc., the U.S. owner of Poland’s largest private television network, TVN, to sell its Polish holdings.
The nationalist ruling party, Law and Justice, drafted the legislation, arguing that it’s a matter of national security to prevent outside bodies from being able to influence public opinion within Poland.
Government opponents view it as an attempt to silence a news broadcaster that is critical of the government and exposes wrongdoing.
Bogdan Klich, a senator with the opposition party Civic Platform, called the law an “act of war against freedom of speech” in a speech to protesters who had gathered outside of the Senate ahead of the vote.
Senators in the 100-seat body voted 53-37 against the bill, with three abstentions.
Duda, though an ally of Law and Justice, says he will veto the legislation in its current form. Last month, he called it “a controversial solution that is incomprehensible” to the United States, citing the U.S. attitude toward the protection of property and freedom of speech.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last month that the United States was “deeply troubled” by the legislation targeting TVN.
“Poland has worked for decades to foster a vibrant and free media,” Blinken said. “This draft legislation would significantly weaken the media environment the Polish people have worked so long to build.”
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