WARSAW, Poland—Poland President Andrzej Duda has vetoed a controversial media measure that would have forced U.S. company Discovery to give up its controlling stake in Polish television network TVN, with the president acknowledging the free speech concerns of the legislation's opponents and suggesting that it would have strained relations with the United States, a key Warsaw ally.
"If we signed an agreement, we have to abide by it," Duda said. "Then we can say we're an honorable nation. And that's how I want Poland to be seen by its allies."
The legislation, recently approved by the lower chamber of the Polish Parliament, would have blocked any non-European entity from owning more than a 49 percent stake in television or radio broadcasters in Poland. Dubbed "lex TVN," the measure would have forced Discovery to relinquish its majority stake in TVN, the largest private television network in Poland.
In a nod to the concerns raised about the measure, Duda said one of the arguments weighing on his decision was "the matter of media plurality and freedom of speech."
However, Duda made clear that his veto doesn't put the issue of foreign ownership of media outlets in Poland to rest, urging lawmakers to reconsider the legislation and come up with a version that doesn't have a retroactive effect on investors.
"For those who want to invest in our country, in the future, after such regulations take effect, they'll have clarity on the conditions under which they can manage their investment," Duda said.
The Law and Justice Party, of which Duda is a member, has long said foreign media groups wield too much power and distort public debate in Poland.
"I believe that generally limiting the possibility of holding shares or stocks in media companies is sensible when it comes to foreign capital," Duda said at the presser, citing examples of the United States, France, and Germany, which have such laws in place. "I share the opinion that it should be introduced in Poland, but for the future."