Poland's lawmakers approve new law on state media control

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WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland's parliament on Wednesday approved new legislation that gives the government control of state radio and television stations in a move that has raised EU concern.

Following a heated debate, the lower chamber voted 232-152 with 34 abstentions to adopt amendments to the media law that were proposed by the ruling conservative Law and Justice party.

If it takes effect, the legislation would give the Treasury Minister the authority to appoint heads of the state-run radio and TV, would limit the number of members in the supervisory boards and the boards of managers and would terminate the terms of the current management, appointed by the previous establishment.

The Law and Justice argues that under current leadership state radio and TV fail to fulfill their role of uniting and educating the nation and serve as means of propaganda for the previous ruling team, now in the opposition.

Opponents say that the new legislation would threaten media independence and freedom of expression, by putting them under direct government control.

The amendments need approval from the Senate and the president, who are also controlled by the ruling party and are expected to grant their consent.

Deputy head of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans wrote to Poland's foreign and justice ministers on Wednesday to express concern for Poland's media freedom and to seek assurance that the new legislation respects EU principles concerning the rights of the media.

Poland's Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said late Wednesday he has not yet received "any such letter."

The fast pace and the nature of the reforms undertaken by the government since it took power last month have led to large street protests in Warsaw and some other Polish cities and have alarmed some EU leaders.

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