A week ago, the Polish parliament passed a law that, if the legislative process is completed, would entail a powerful blow to freedom of speech. According to the letter of the new law, only European companies can own a controlling stake in electronic media, which must obtain a license to operate in Poland.
At first glance, there is nothing alarming in this, in general, for a long time, according to representatives of the ruling Law and Justice party, we should have settled the issue of ownership in the media industry. They often cite the example of France, which strictly regulates the share of foreign companies in the media. But the current Polish authorities demonstrate tremendous hypocrisy in this matter. The 49 percent barrier is directed against the influential news channel TVN24 and the TVN group in general, which is now wholly owned by the large American media corporation Discovery.
The authors of the law are not embarrassed by the fact that the confiscation of the property of the American media corporation will lead to a radical deterioration of the already difficult relations with the Joe Biden administration. It is important for them to shut up the main opposition television station, which covers domestic politics differently from the state-controlled TVP. Discomery does not interfere at all in the information policy of its channel, its journalists have complete freedom of speech.
Two years remained in Poland until the next parliamentary elections. By forcing the Americans to sell their stake, the PiS leaders are hoping that they will have time to reformat the channel so that it will become another tool of pro-government propaganda. In Russia, it is well remembered how the Putin regime strangled the independent television channel NTV, which it became after its dispersal in 2001. The Polish authorities want to carry out the same operation against TVN in the hope that the clearing of the media field will give them another victory in the elections.
But there is still a long way to go before the new law enters into force, it is likely to be rejected in the opposition-controlled Senate, after which it will be necessary to find enough votes in the Diet to overcome the Senate veto. Finally, the president must sign the law. Will Kaczynski and his supporters succeed in successfully completing the operation against TVN? In Poland, a powerful wave has risen in defense of his journalists. The American authorities say they will protect the property rights of the American corporation. It is even possible that certain sanctions may be imposed against Poland, such as a ban on its leaders from entering the United States.
For Poland, which a few years ago was the absolute leader of democratic transformations in the post-communist space, the success of the operation against the TVN channel will mean colossal degradation. Kaczynski and his team are welcomed in the club of countries such as Russia, Turkey and Hungary. The leaderships of these countries know better than anyone else in the world how to effectively stifle freedom of speech.