Poland’s parliament passes new media bill to ‘silence outlets critical of government’

Poland’s parliament has passed a new media bill that opponents say is an attempt to silence a TV channel critical of the government.

The government says the law is needed to stop hostile foreign powers taking control of its broadcasters.

But critics say it is an attempt to push US company Discovery to sell the country’s biggest TV network, TVN.

The law threatens to sour relations with the US, a key ally, and deepen EU concern over media freedom in Poland.

During the session on Wednesday a small coalition partner in a dispute over the proposed new law withdrew from the government. The departure of the coalition partner now means the government has now lost its parliamentary majority.

The government, led by the Law and Justice party of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, will continue to lead Poland unless it loses a vote of confidence, which would require a vote of two-thirds of the lower house.

Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets across Poland to express their anger at the proposals.

A crowd gathered outside the parliament in Warsaw, and rallies were held in Krakow, Wroclaw, Poznan, Lublin and Szczecin.

The government has argued that existing rules banning companies based outside the European Economic Area from directly owning broadcasters should be tightened to prevent Chinese and Russian firms from controlling Polish media outlets.

However, the plans have been criticised by the US, which is an important military ally. The US company Discovery owns TVN through a subsidiary based in the Netherlands.

The bill now has to pass the opposition-controlled Senate, which may make amendments or reject the bill. However, the lower house of parliament can overturn any changes and finally approve the bill.