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Polish govt counting on majority for media reform, says spokesman after mass protests

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The Polish government thinks it will have a majority to pass an amendment to the Broadcasting Act on Wednesday, a spokesman said, in a vote critics say is aimed at silencing Discovery-owned news channel TVN24, which has been critical of the government.

“I am counting on it that questions related to the media law will gain a majority in parliament and I am sure that the United Right government will continue to function,” Piotr Muller told public broadcaster Polskie Radio 1.

Thousands of people across Poland protested in defence of media freedoms on Tuesday, objecting to draft legislation that critics say could shut down a U.S.-owned broadcaster critical of the government.

Parliament is scheduled to vote on the legislation on Wednesday.

The vote to tighten rules on foreign ownership of Polish media threatens to sour relations with Washington and deepen concern in the European Union over democratic standards in the bloc’s east. Issues such as judicial independence and LGBT rights have already brought Poland and Hungary into conflict with Brussels.

In Warsaw, one of around 80 towns and cities where protests were organised, people brandished placards with slogans such as “Free Media, Free People, Free Poland”.

“If it happened (that TVN24 lost its licence) … it’s the end – there is no democracy, no freedom of speech,” said 66-year-old designer Iwona Leliwa-Kopystynska.

TVN24 footage showed protesters on the roof of the Culture Ministry in Warsaw with banners reading “Free Media” and “Poland Free of Facism”.

The amendment to the Broadcasting Act would strengthen a ban on non-European firms controlling Polish broadcasters.

via Reuters