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European giants slam Polish government over changes in media law

The European Publishers Council (EPC) and its members have expressed “extreme concern” over the Polish government’s plans to outlaw foreign ownership of local media companies.

Christian Van Thillo

The EPC, a high-level group of 28 chairmen and CEOs of leading European media corporations, said the proposed changes to the law in Poland recently approved by the Polish government are a threat to media freedom and plurality.

It also said the changes threaten the “reliability of the rules of the game” in Poland, which are essential for investors and media professionals.

Discovery is at the centre of a rift that is putting a strain on US-Polish diplomatic relations via its ownership of TVN, Poland’s largest private television network which runs the country’s largest independent news network and is a vocal critic of the government.

The US media giant would be forced to give up its majority stake in TVN if the changes are passed into law and it is already taking legal action against the Polish government.

A ‘notice of dispute’ was sent to Poland’s president Andrzej Duda last week, with Discovery saying Poland’s conduct violates several obligations under the bilateral investment treaty signed between the US and the Republic of Poland in March 1990.

The EPC’s members include high-ranking execs at media groups such as Bonnier News, Bauer Media, News UK, Condé Nast, New York Times, Egmont Group and The Guardian.

In the international ranking on press freedom by Reporters Without Borders, Poland has plummeted 44 places in the past five years – it is currently in 62nd place.

EPC chairman Christian Van Thillo said: “The way in which a hastily fabricated change in media laws, this time aimed at a specific TV channel, was ruthlessly pushed through in a special parliamentary session with controversial voting procedures and the narrowest of majorities, is nourishing the worst fears worldwide. This is yet another example of multi-pronged attacks on independent media outlets in Poland.

“The European Publishers Council and its members condemn any party-politically motivated attempts to intimidate the media and media professionals. Repeated attacks of this kind are diametrically opposed to the liberal principles and values of our European Union.

“The free competition of thoughts and opinions is one of the prerequisites of reliable democracies. Thus, in this serious hour, Poland’s democratic institutions are called upon to take into account the pluralistic ethos of our common European cohesion.”


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