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Poland: Protesters urge president to veto media law

Protesters are concerned about the future of critical media in Poland

Protesters are concerned about the future of critical media in Poland

Thousands of protesters gathered in cities across Poland on Sunday demanding President Andrzej Duda veto a controversial new media law that critics charge is an attempt to force the sale of a critical television channel, US-owned TVN.

The lower house of Poland's parliament, the Sejm, revisited the legislation Friday unexpectedly in a closing session for the year, after it had effectively been shelved in September when the upper house of parliament, the Senate, voted against it.

The US has registered its strenuous objections and Duda has in the past signaled through allies that he is prepared to veto the bill citing among other reasons, the concerns of the US regarding freedom of the press.

Wider press freedom concerns loom

There are also wider press freedom concerns looming in Poland. Last year, the state-run oil company PKN Orlen took over a chain of regional newspapers from its previous owners, German publishers.

Senator Bogdan Klich, a member of the largest opposition party Civic Platform that has its roots in the Solidarity trade union instrumental in the country's peaceful transition from communism to market-based economics, pointed to larger issues of press freedom and democracy as well.

"At this moment we are talking about TVN, but it is not just about TVN. It's about the future of free speech in Poland, about the future of our democracy," Klich told a crowd in Krakow, the country's second largest city.

The deputy editor of the Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper, Jaroslaw Kurski, said the government sought to silence critical voices in order to steal the next election, scheduled for 2023.

"The mafia has taken over the country," he said.

ar/wd (AP, Reuters)