WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poles marched in cities across the country Sunday to defend a U.S.-owned television network that is being targeted by the country's right-wing government and to protect media freedoms in a European Union nation where democratic norms are eroding.
Many of the protesters were older Poles who decades ago resisted the country's communist regime. They fear that the democracy that they helped usher in is now being lost to them. They believe Poland's populist right-wing government is turning the country away from the West and adopting an authoritarian model closer to that of Turkey or Russia with attempts to exert political control over the courts and silence critical media.
The protests, led by opposition groups, were called after the parliament on Friday unexpectedly passed a bill that would force Discovery Inc. to sell its controlling share of TVN, Poland’s largest television network.
TVN operates an all-news channel TVN24 and its main channel, TVN, has a nightly evening news program viewed by millions that offers critical reporting of the government.
The fate of the bill now lies with President Andrzej Duda. The main protest on Sunday was taking place in front of the presidential palace in Warsaw.
Government leaders have defended the legislation by arguing that it is important for national security to ensure that no company outside of Europe can control companies that help form public opinion.
The United States is a close ally of Warsaw and has urged the government not to pass the law, viewing it as a hostile act towards a U.S. company.