(New York, NY) — The lower house of the Polish legislature passed a controversial media ownership bill Friday, a troubling step toward banning non-European owners from having a controlling stake in Polish media. Multi-channel network TVN, which is often critical of the Polish government and is majority-U.S. owned, appears to be the main target of the bill. The Polish senate and president must approve the bill before it becomes law.

“Silencing dissenting voices and closing Polish airwaves to non-European media owners is a cynical act designed to muzzle independent news outlets and hobble the function of a free press as a bulwark of democracy. In pushing this restrictive media law, the Polish government is continuing its downward slide in terms of respect for press freedom rights,” said Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America. “For the past six years, the ruling Law and Justice party has waged battle against free expression and media autonomy. We call on the Polish legislature to vote down this bill, and urge U.S. and EU leaders to raise the stakes on President Duda against signing the bill into law.”

“These actions fly in the face of Poland’s recent efforts to support free expression in neighboring Belarus,” PEN America’s Nossel continued. “The Polish government rightly extend a humanitarian visa to Belarusian Olympian sprinter Krystina Timanovskaya after a social media post criticizing her coaches led Belarusian authorities to seek to forcibly remove her from Tokyo. Yet Poland’s offer of protection to Belarusian dissidents rings hollow amidst its campaign to deny its own citizenry an unbiased, independent media.”