Free-Speech Protests Grip Poland

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Protests erupted across Poland on Sunday as proponents of free speech decried the government’s decision to oust Discovery Inc. The protests were organized after Poland’s Parliament announced plans to force the US-based Discovery Inc to sell its shares of TVN, the country’s largest broadcast network.

The legislation was passed by parliament’s lower house over the summer, but the Senate dismissed it. Friday, the lower chamber unexpectedly resurrected the law and overrode the Senate’s veto. Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, will decide the legislation’s fate. If he doesn’t veto the bill, it will become law.

Government Seeks To Oust Discovery Inc

Poland’s new law would force the US-based Discovery Inc to sell its controlling share of broadcast network TVN. The company operates a news network, TVN24, that reports critically on the Polish government. Government officials have defended the legislation, saying it’s vital to protect the integrity of the country’s elections by keeping outside voices from shaping public opinion.

The United States government opposes the legislation. Bix Aliu, a US diplomat, told Warsaw that the proposed bill is “extremely disappointing.” Aliu publicly called on President Duda to veto the bill, “to use his leadership to protect free speech and business.”

Protests Grip Poland

Protests broke out around the country less than 48 hours after parliament voted for the legislation. The largest demonstration took place outside President Duda’s residence in Warsaw. Many demonstrators believe the country’s government is silencing TVN because the network reports on the ruling party’s activities.

The leader of the opposition party, Donald Tusk, appeared during the protest in Warsaw. During the demonstration, he called out “let’s sweep this power away!” to a cheering crowd. Tusk, a former EU president and Polish prime minister, is the head of the center-right Civic Platform party.

The demonstrators accused Poland’s leaders of attacking democratic norms in the country. “The mafia has taken over the country. They want to master all elements of public life,” newspaper editor Jarosław Kurski said during the protests.

Online Activism

TVN took to the internet to oppose the move. The network launched a petition calling on President Duda to veto the new law. “The attack on media freedom has far-reaching consequences for the future of Poland,” the petition’s description explains. “Mutual relations with the USA, the greatest ally and guarantor of our country’s security, are being destroyed. We cannot allow it!”

The petition amassed 2 million signatures overnight Sunday. Will Duda choose to carry the bill forward despite the public backlash against it? It’s up to his discretion now.