The Polish legislature made an unexpected move Friday by rushing a media bill that critics say was aimed at silencing news channels critical of the government. The bill has raised concerns about media freedom in the country.
The bill, which seeks to limit foreign ownership of media companies, immediately sparked reactions from the U.S. and EU. It is expected to affect the operation of news channel TVN24, owned by U.S. media company Discovery Inc (DISCA.O) if it becomes law.
“The United States is deeply troubled by the passage in Poland today of a law that would undermine freedom of expression, weaken media freedom, and erode foreign investors’ confidence in their property rights and the sanctity of contracts in Poland,” said U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price in a recent statement.
Although not included in the lawmakers’ agenda that day, the bill was quickly passed after a committee brought it up at short notice of only 24 minutes prior. It must be signed by President Andrzej Duda to become law.
“The bill … will, of course, be analysed by us and the appropriate decision will be made. I have already talked about the point of view from which I will assess the bill,” Duda told reporters on Friday.
As tension rises in Eastern Europe over the threat of a Russian invasion, the bill is predicted to cause further friction between Warsaw and Washington as well as Brussels.
Meanwhile, European Commission Vice President Vera Jourova has said that the commission would not “hesitate to take action in case of non-compliance with EU law” if Duda were to sign the law.