vetoed a controversial media law Monday following protests around the country and criticism from the U.S. This was the right call on economic and security grounds.
The bill, passed this month, would have denied broadcast licenses to companies with even indirect majority ownership outside the European Economic Area (EEA). This would have forced the U.S. conglomerate Discovery to sell its stake in TVN, which it owns through a Dutch company. The channel’s news division is highly critical of the Polish government.
“The majority of my countrymen . . . don’t want more fights. And my job as president is to act in such a way as to avoid these fights,” Mr. Duda said when announcing the veto, according to the Financial Times.
He also mentioned media pluralism and alluded to a U.S. investment treaty with Poland: “If we don’t keep our deals with others, others won’t keep their deals with us.” The Poles know this principle is more important than ever as Russia threatens its neighbors in Eastern and Central Europe.
Mr. Duda toldPolsat News that he was “amazed” the legislation passed given his earlier public opposition. He had suggested in August that he supports “media repolonization” but on a “market basis.” There don’t appear to be enough votes to override his veto.
“Limiting ownership in media by non-EEA entities makes sense but they should cover entities entering the market, not the ones already operating on it,” Mr. Duda said. Given the country’s harrowing history, many Poles are understandably concerned about foreign influence. But the U.S., the country’s primary security guarantor, is not China or Russia. Limiting future investment from allied states won’t be as destructive as the most recent law, but it still sends the wrong message.
The U.S. State Department deserves credit for making its opposition to the law clear without going overboard. This episode also provides a lesson for Poland’s Western European critics, whose attacks on Warsaw are often tinged with cultural condescension.
Democracies can be more fragile than they appear. But reports about the death of Polish democracy have once again been greatly exaggerated.
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Appeared in the December 29, 2021, print edition as ‘Good News Out of Warsaw.’