Poland’s Senate Deals Setback to Anti-U.S. Media Bill

Poland’s upper house of parliament rejected legislation targeting American media giant Discovery Inc., making it more difficult for the government to pass a bill that’s upended ties with the U.S.

The opposition-controlled Senate’s vote on Thursday against the bill makes it less likely it will become law, though such a scenario still can’t be ruled out.

The U.S. has piled pressure on lawmakers and President Andrzej Duda to derail the legislation, which it said harms business sentiment and curbs media freedom.

The law will now return to parliament’s lower house for a final vote, where it will test the government’s minority backing. To implement it, the ruling party and its allies must first override the Senate and then convince an increasingly skeptical Duda to sign it.

If enacted, the law would force Discovery to sell more than 50% in TVN, Poland’s most-popular private television broadcaster, whose news channel has uncovered government graft and sleaze scandals. The bill has raised concern about journalistic independence and drawn condemnation from Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The government says in its defense that the legislation is part of a wider push to prevent the takeover of Polish broadcasters by Russian or Chinese companies and is similar to rules in other European Union countries.

Discovery, one of the largest U.S. investors in Poland, said its ordeal is a warning for other foreign companies seeking to do business there. It welcomed the Senate’s rejection of the bill, saying it’s still concerned about its local unit and independent media in the country of 38 million people.

“The Senate has clearly signaled that the bill is an attack on core democratic principles of freedom of speech and the independence of the media,” said Kasia Kieli, President and Managing Director for Discovery in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Duda, a ruling-party loyalist who rarely goes against the governing Law & Justice party, has said it was “very difficult for Americans to understand that there may be any limitations or doubts” over media freedoms in an allied country such as Poland. “This situation is quite special and our interests must be weighed,” he said on Aug. 25.

The president’s aides have gone further, saying Duda would veto the legislation unless it was amended. 

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