Thousands in Poland protest law that would force Discovery to sell channel

Thousands of demonstrators gathered outside Poland’s presidential palace on Sunday in protest of a media law passed last week that limits foreign companies from owning major stakes in Polish media, with critics say targets a channel owned by Discovery Inc.

Discovery owns the Polish TV firm TVN Group, which in turn controls Poland’s highest-watched news channel TVN24, which is known for being critical of the country’s conservative ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party.

Under the law, companies outside of the European Economic Area would be barred from having a controlling stake in local media companies, essentially forcing Discovery to sell its control of the TVN Group if ratified.

After it was passed by in parliament, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki defended the bill and said it was not designed to target TVN specifically.

As Reuters reported, protesters complained that the law — which has yet to be signed by Polish President Andrzej Duda — was an attack on media freedom. Demonstrations took place outside of the capital of Warsaw, with protesters gathering in the southern city of Krakow as well.

Warsaw mayor Rafal Trzaskowski, a former opposition presidential candidate, attended the demonstration, Reuters reported, telling the crowd, “This is not just about one channel.”

“In a moment (there will be) censorship of the internet, an attempt to extinguish all independent sources of information — but we will not allow that to happen,” said Trzaskowski.

After the law was passed, Discovery released a statement saying, “TVN/Discovery is extremely concerned about the result of the vote in the Sejm of the Republic of Poland on the amendment to the Broadcasting Act, but remains resolute in its defense of the rights of the Polish people and the TVN business.”

“The act as adopted is an attack on core democratic principles of freedom of speech, the independence of the media and is directly discriminatory against TVN and Discovery,” the company added.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price also released a statement last week saying the U.S. was “troubled” by the new law and expressed concerns that it would “weaken media freedom.”

“We encourage President Duda to reaffirm his past statements about respecting the shared democratic norms that underpin our relationship and his commitment to defend the constitutional principles of freedom of speech, freedom to engage in economic activity, property rights, and equal treatment under the law,” said Price.

Tags Discovery Networks Discovery, Inc. free media Law and Justice Mass media in Poland media freedom Poland Rafał Trzaskowski Television Television in Poland TVN TVN Group TVN24

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