Poland’s Attack on Press Freedoms Is Facing a Major Backlash

Poland’s Attack on Press Freedoms Is Facing a Major Backlash
People demonstrate in defense of media freedom in Warsaw, Poland, Aug. 10, 2021 (AP photo by Czarek Sokolowski).

In mid-August, Poland’s ruling right-wing Law and Justice party, or PiS, introduced a bill that would ban non-European ownership of Polish media properties. Detractors saw a blatant attack on TVN, the biggest independent television news source in the country and frequent PiS critic, which is owned by U.S. media conglomerate Discovery. Despite the opposition, PiS pushed the bill through the lower chamber of parliament with the help of some dubious procedural maneuvers and the votes of several MPs from an allied party, sparking widespread—and at times colorful—accusations of political corruption.

The resulting political maelstrom leaves Poland with its freedom of speech under threat, its parliament in disarray and its ties with its most powerful ally strained. 

TVN runs multiple television channels in Poland, but it is the company’s news operation that irritates PiS the most. Its flagship news program and the TVN24 news channel, which is facing a related fight to renew its expiring broadcast license, have been steadily exposing government scandals and criticizing its political agenda. “TVN, and particularly TVN24, dared to show that the emperor has no clothes,” said Anna Materska-Sosnowska, a political scientist at the University of Warsaw. 

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