Poles Urge President to Veto Anti-U.S. Media Law in Protests
(Bloomberg) -- Tens of thousands of Poles protested on Sunday against what they see as the ruling party’s attempt to force out Discovery Inc. as the owner of the country’s most popular private television broadcaster.
Demonstrations spilled into more than 100 cities and towns after Poland’s parliament unexpectedly approved media law changes on Friday, triggering rebukes from Washington and Brussels. Discovery vowed to defend its investment against proposed changes that would compel the U.S.-based group to sell more than 50% of its TVN unit.
In the largest gathering in front of a presidential palace in downtown Warsaw, several thousand protesters urged President Andrzej Duda to reject the bill, chanting “we want a veto” and “free media.” TVN’s influential all-news channel has been a thorn in the government’s side, chronicling instances of sleaze and power grab by the ruling nationalists during their six-year reign.
Duda said on Friday he’ll analyze the draft law without specifying whether he will wield his veto as signaled earlier. An ally of the ruling party in his final term as president, he has come under pressure from Law & Justice rank-and-file over the weekend to sign the bill, dubbed “lex TVN.”
Education Minister Przemyslaw Czarnek has urged Duda to swiftly approve the legislation, dismissing as “naive” concerns that the legislation would sour Poland’s relations with Washington at the time of tensions on its eastern border. The U.S. State Department said the bill would “erode foreign investors’ confidence in their property rights.” It urged Duda to veto the measure.
Addressing the crowds in Warsaw, the leader of the biggest opposition party Donald Tusk evoked a poem by a Polish Noble Prize winner in Literature Czeslaw Milosz as he sought to prod the president into rejecting the legislation. “Do not feel safe,” Tusk said. “The words are written down, the deed, the date.”
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