EU rights official denounces Polish media restrictions in fight against US broadcaster

BRUSSELS, July 12 (Reuters) – The senior EU human rights official on Monday expressed concern over restrictions on media freedom in Poland, where ruling nationalists threaten not to renew the broadcasting license from a critical television news channel owned by the American giant Discovery Inc.

The case added to growing concerns about the retreat of democratic principles in Poland, as well as a stalemate between Washington and its staunch European ally. Read more

The television regulator told Reuters broadcaster TVN24 violated Poland’s cap on foreign media ownership, and the body was divided over whether to renew the license after the license expires current September 26.

The ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party has submitted draft legal amendments that could challenge Discovery to divest most of its Polish business – estimated at over $ 1 billion – to continue broadcasting in the country of 38 million inhabitants.

“Poland’s new bill on broadcasting concessions is a worrying new signal for media freedom and pluralism in the country,” EU Commissioner for Values ​​and Transparency Vera said on Twitter. Jourova.

“We are closely monitoring the situation with TVN24, whose license has not yet been renewed.”

The increasingly authoritarian PiS has long argued that foreign media distort public debate and do not serve Polish interests.

Poland recently used its state-owned refiner, PKN Orlen (PKN.WA), to buy out a newspaper publisher from German owners, giving Warsaw more influence over 20 local dailies, whose websites receive nearly 17 million dollars. visitors per day.

PiS lawmaker Marek Suski said last Saturday that the Polish government is preparing to increase its influence over TVN, which is the parent company of TVN24 and owns more than a dozen channels in Poland, as well as a platform video on demand.

Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Nick Macfie

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