Poland press freedom: Demonstrations to enter third day

Protesters attend an anti-government demonstration in Warsaw, Poland, 17 December 17, 2016.Image copyright

Image caption

Crowds gathered outside the presidential palace on Saturday, before marching to parliament

Protests in the Polish capital Warsaw against government plans to restrict journalists’ access to parliament are set to enter their third day.

Demonstrators will gather outside parliament on Sunday as opposition MPs continue a sit-in that began on Friday.

Supporters of Poland’s populist right-wing government will also hold a demonstration in Warsaw.

Polish President Andrzej Duda has offered to mediate between the two sides.

On Saturday, journalists met the speaker of the upper house of parliament to discuss the new rules.

Although no breakthrough was made at the talks, there were signs that a compromise deal may be reached after another meeting was scheduled for Monday.

Earlier Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, in a televised address, said the blockade on parliament in protest at the new rules by opposition MPs was “scandalous”.

She said people were free to protest, but had to respect the views of others.

Opposition MPs said the government was trying to stifle press freedom with its plans to limit the number of reporters allowed to cover parliament.

As well the number of journalists permitted to enter the parliament building being restricted, only five selected Polish TV stations will be allowed to record or broadcast parliamentary sessions.

The government said it did not believe that the measures were restrictive.

On Saturday morning, a crowd of about 2,000 people gathered outside the presidential palace chanting “freedom, equality, democracy”.

Media captionCrowds blocked the entrance to the Polish parliament late on Friday evening

The crowd later marched to the parliament building where they remained throughout the day.

European Council President Donald Tusk, a former Polish prime minister, on Saturday urged the government to respect the constitution.

Addressing reporters in the western city of Wroclaw, Mr Tusk criticised the government’s plans, saying that without media access “democracy becomes dictatorship”.

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