Polish president says he vetoed media law

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 Poland’s President Andrzej Duda said on Monday he vetoed a controversial media bill as he shared some Poles’ worries about freedom of speech and that signing it into law would strain relations with Warsaw’s key ally, the United States.

Unexpectedly rushed through parliament this month, the legislation would have tightened rules around foreign ownership of media, specifically affecting the ability of news channel TVN24, owned by U.S. media company Discovery Inc, to operate.

“I believe that generally limiting the possibility of holding shares or stocks in media companies is sensible when it comes to foreign capital … I share the opinion that it should be introduced in Poland, but for the future,” Duda said.

“The bill and its amendments concern entities which are already present in the market … There is also the issue of media pluralism, of freedom of speech. When taking my decision, I took this element into serious consideration.”

Poland’s ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party has long said that foreign media groups have too much power in the country and distort public debate.

Critics say the government’s moves against foreign media groups are part of an increasingly authoritarian agenda that has put Warsaw at loggerheads with the European Union.

Duda was elected with the support of the ruling nationalists, but his decision to veto the legislation may strain his relations with the party.

Yet it may help Warsaw avoid a row with the United States at a time of heightened tension in eastern Europe amid what some countries see as increased Russian assertiveness.

(Reporting by Pawel Florkiewicz and Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

Photo – Polish President Andrzej Duda . EPA-EFE/RADEK PIETRUSZKA

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