Poland’s parliament has voted in favour of a Bill that would force Discovery Inc, the US owner of Poland’s largest private television network, to sell its Polish holdings.
The Bill, if it gets the Polish president’s approval, is widely viewed as a blow to media independence in Poland.
The draft legislation would prevent non-European owners from having controlling stakes in Polish media companies.
In practice, it only affects TVN, which includes TVN24, an all-news station that is critical of the nationalist right-wing government and has exposed wrongdoing by Polish authorities.
In a day of political drama, parliament’s lower chamber finally voted 228 to 216 late on Wednesday to approve the legislation. The Bill now goes to the Senate.
The move has been criticized by US senators, the state department and the EU as an attempt to muzzle independent media.
The governing coalition also collapsed before the vote after prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki fired his deputy, Jaroslaw Gowin, the leader the Accord party and an increasingly vocal opponent of the Law and Justice leadership.
The vote on Wednesday was delayed after opposition parties won a motion to adjourn the sitting of parliament until next month.
That was then annulled by the speaker on the basis that she had made a mistake when announcing the motion, triggering an outcry from the opposition, which accused the ruling party of breaking parliamentary protocol.
The exit of Mr Gowin, the pro-business deputy prime minister, meanwhile raises the profile of far-right lawmakers who have questioned the merits of EU membership.
Law and Justice’s remaining partner in the coalition is a small group allied with hardline Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro, who wanted Poland to veto the EU’s virus recovery package last year and has broached the topic of the country leaving the 27-nation bloc.
The earlier vote to postpone the sitting of the lower house had left question marks hanging over the stability of the government and the future of the Bill.
“Minority government has started,” said Krzysztof Gawkowski, from the opposition Left grouping. “This parliament will not be like it has been up to now.”
Accord leader Mr Gowin told private radio station RMF FM on Wednesday that each of Accord’s lawmakers had received a “very politically attractive” proposal to remain in the ruling coalition, United Right, including ministerial posts.
“This is a day that will be a test of character, above all the character of Accord politicians,” he said.
Accord had previously said it opposed the media reform Bill in its current form.
Accord spokeswoman Magdalena Sroka told Reuters that five of 10 Accord lawmakers who had been members of the PiS parliamentary party voted with the opposition in favour of the postponement.
A government spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. – Reuters/Bloomberg/AP