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Poland: Media freedom fears as TVN24's licence extension is suspended

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By Mark Armstrong  & Magdalena Chodownik
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TVN24 has its license suspended
TVN24 has its license suspended   -   Copyright  Euronews   -   Euronews
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Poland's National Broadcasting Council has suspended the extension of the licence of the independent TVN24 television channel, which is owned and financed by an American company.

Negotiations are also underway in parliament on a new bill that would limit the ability of media to operate in Poland if they have large foreign investment.

If the bill goes through, TVN would fall into that bracket since it's part of the American Discovery franchise.

Press Club Polska, an independent association of journalists, said the decision is an attempt to strangle media.

“In our opinion, the move to not extend TVN's licence seems to be an attempt to put pressure on independent media," explained Wojciech Tumidalski. "When it comes to this “lex TVN” bill, as they call it, it is unacceptable to pass a law against a single economic entity that plays an important role in the media market and is simply an independent medium that challenges the government.”

Jobs at risk

TVN24 employs nearly one thousand people and is watched by 4.5m people daily, a significant audience in a country of 38m. It is an important source of information for many in Poland.

In a statement, TVN management emphasised that in 2015, Poland's National Broadcasting Council had accepted the company taking American capital, and until they applied for an extension of their licence, no doubts were raised.

The company went on to say they it will not "yield to any pressure" and that it will "remain independent acting on behalf of our viewers."

"We are not here for politicians, and they do not set our daily agenda," said Brygida Grysiak, deputy editor-in-chief of TVN24. "This is determined by specific people for whom decisions made by politicians are of fundamental life importance. We have such a feeling that this is the moment when we are simply, absolutely indispensable to our viewers."

The ruling Conservative Law and Justice party is urging Poland's parliament to pass the new media legislation. It seems that the TVN24 licence will not be extended until the legislation is voted on.

"There are very important drawbacks of this bill, which must be clarified," explained Teresa Brykczyńska of the National Broadcasting Council, "so that the National Council can, with a clear conscience, and in accordance with Polish law, extend this licence."

The vote on the new media law is due to be held in August.