US media group Discovery to sue Poland over ‘discriminatory’ media ownership law

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American media group Discovery is to take legal action against the Polish government, accusing Warsaw of a “discriminatory campaign” against its TVN business.

Discovery’s announcement on Thursday came a day after the lower house of parliament in Poland approved a bill that aims to ban non-European companies from owning controlling stakes in Polish media outlets.

The contentious draft law, which needs to be approved by the Senate and President Andrzej Duda, has been slammed by critics as an attack on press freedom.

It is also widely viewed as an attempt by the government to silence the TVN channel, owned by Discovery, and whose new programmes watched daily by millions have been critical of the government.

Discovery said its decision to sue “follows Poland’s discriminatory campaign against Discovery’s TVN, including its refusal to renew TVN24’s broadcasting license.”

“The legislation is the latest assault on independent media and freedom of the press, and takes direct aim at Discovery’s TVN, the country’s leading independent broadcasting group and news provider, as well as one of the largest U.S. investments in Poland.”

“Over a number of years, the current Polish government has targeted TVN in an arbitrary and discriminatory manner as part of a broader crackdown on independent media and in direct violation of legal protections around freedom of expression,” it added.

It also said that it aims for a “positive resolution” but that failing that it would “seek full compensation for Poland’s breaches.”

Both Brussels and Washington have criticised the bill with European Commission Vice-President Věra Jourová, calling for a bloc-wide Media Freedom Act to uphold media freedom and support the rule of law.

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“Media pluralism and diversity of opinions are what strong democracies welcome, not fight against. The draft Polish broadcasting law sends a negative signal,” she wrote on Twitter.

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said earlier this week that the US is “deeply troubled” by the draft law.

“Large US commercial investments in Poland tie our prosperity together and enhance our collective security. This draft legislation threatens media freedom and could undermine Poland’s strong investment climate,” he also said.

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