Poland's president prefers media reforms on "market basis"

FILE PHOTO: General view of TVN station's TVN24 television channel studio in Warsaw
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WARSAW (Reuters) - Taking over media owned by foreign companies should be carried out on market terms instead of introducing compulsory solutions, Polish President Andrzej Duda said on Tuesday in a sign he might oppose a bill that critics say is aimed at gagging a news channel critical of the government. Earlier in August Poland's lower house of parliament passed a bill that would strengthen a ban on firms from outside the European Economic Area controlling Polish broadcasters. The move was criticized by the United States and European Commission. The opposition says the bill aims to gag the news channel TVN24, which is owned by U.S.-based media group Discovery Inc and is critical of Poland's right-wing nationalist government. TVN24's parent, TVN, is owned by Discovery Inc via a firm registered in the Netherlands, to get around a ban on non-European firms owning more than 49% of Polish media companies. The bill would forbid such an arrangements. "In general, I believe that the issue of media repolonization is an important topic, but it would be best if it was carried out on a market basis ... not compulsively," Duda said in an interview aired by state controlled broadcaster TVP Info. "This is a very controversial solution that is incomprehensible to our American partners for two reasons: First because of the protection of property ... and second because of the value of freedom of speech," he added. The bill will now be voted on by the upper house of parliament, the Senate. All bills must clear both houses of parliament and be signed by Duda to become law.

The president has the right to veto bills or ask the Constitutional Tribunal to check whether they are consistent with the Constitution.

(Reporting by Anna Koper; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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