Polish President vetoes nationalist media law

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Poland’s president on Monday vetoed a proposed media law that would have forced the US company Discovery to cede its stake in TVN, a Polish television network.

For many people, this represented a victory for freedom of expression and media independence in a country where democratic norms are being challenged by the nationalist government. The veto is also expected to be welcomed in Washington, which sought to defend America’s largest investment in Poland.

President Andrzej Duda pointed out that the bill was not popular with many Poles and would have dealt a blow to Poland’s reputation as a place to do business.

“The contracts must be kept,” Duda told a press conference in Warsaw, where he announced his veto. “For us Poles, it is a matter of honor.”

The bill, previously approved by the lower house of Parliament, would have prevented any non-European entity from having more than a 49% stake in television or radio broadcasters in Poland.

In practice, it would only have affected an existing company, Discovery Inc., by forcing the US owner of Poland’s largest private television network, TVN, to sell most or even all of its Polish possessions.

Polish government leaders pushed through the legislation, arguing that it was important to national security and sovereignty, to ensure that no company outside of Europe could control companies that help shape public opinion.

However, many Poles viewed the law, pushed by the ruling Law and Justice party with which Duda is aligned, was an attempt to silence a broadcaster with an exclusive news station, TVN24, and an evening newscast on its main channel that millions of people watch.

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