Pol­ish law­mak­ers, res­i­dents protest me­dia rules changes

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

WAR­SAW: Thou­sands of War­saw res­i­dents joined in a spon­ta­neous protest in front of Poland’s par­lia­ment against a plan by the con­ser­va­tive rul­ing party to limit re­porters’ ac­cess to leg­is­la­tors. Mo­bi­lized by the civic move­ment, the Com­mit­tee for the De­fense of Democ­racy, or KOD, the crowd on Fri­day waved white-and-red na­tional flags and chanted “Free me­dia!” in cold win­ter weather.

Radek Siko­rski, a former for­eign min­is­ter, was among the govern­ment crit­ics who ad­dressed the protest, harshly de­nounc­ing Poland’s po­lit­i­cal di­rec­tion un­der Jaroslaw Kaczyn­ski, the pow­er­ful chair­man of the rul­ing Law and Jus­tice party that is in­tro­duc­ing many sweep­ing changes.

Ear­lier Fri­day, in­side the par­lia­ment’s ses­sion hall, a large group of lib­eral op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers protested the new me­dia rules by stand­ing on and around the speaker’s podium for sev­eral hours. They blocked a vote on the 2017 state bud­get. The bud­get vote was even­tu­ally taken by the rul­ing party’s law­mak­ers in another hall, but the op­po­si­tion ques­tioned its le­gal­ity. It was the most se­ri­ous cri­sis in Poland’s par­lia­ment in many years.

“The po­lit­i­cal cri­sis has grown more ag­gra­vated,” Law and Jus­tice law­maker Tadeusz Cy­man­ski said. The crowd blocked law­mak­ers’ cars, pre­vent­ing them from leav­ing the par­lia­ment area. Af­ter a few hours, po­lice had to make way for them, as the crowd chanted “We will win!” At the heart of the is­sue was free ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion. In the 27 years of Poland’s democ­racy, jour­nal­ists have been a con­stant pres­ence in the par­lia­ment’s halls. Banned from the main assem­bly room, they can grab politi­cians for in­ter­views in the halls.

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