Poland protest: Opposition MPs delay key vote over press freedom


Opposition parliamentarians occupy the podium during a protest in the lower house of the Polish parliament in Warsaw (16 December 2016)Image copyright
EPA

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Opposition MPs argue that the proposed new measures damage media freedom

Opposition MPs in Poland have protested in the lower house of parliament over plans to restrict the number of journalists allowed to cover parliamentary proceedings.

Their protest meant that an important budget vote was delayed on Friday.

Independent media outlets refused to cover the day’s parliamentary proceedings in protest.

The right-wing government has been accused of restricting press freedom since coming to power last year.

Next year only a few reporters will be allowed into parliament.

Only five selected Polish television stations will be permitted to make recordings of parliamentary sessions.

The government argues that it does not believe the measures are restrictive.

Supporters of the move argue it will stop MPs from being accosted by journalists inside the parliamentary building.

Image copyright
Reuters

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It is believed to be the first protest of its kind in the Polish parliament for 10 years

Image copyright
Reuters

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Law and Justice party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski (right) left parliament as the protest got underway

The demonstration on Friday began when an opposition MP held aloft a placard reading “free media”.

He was told by Speaker Marek Kuchcinski, who is a PiS member, that he would no longer be allowed to attend parliamentary proceedings.

But by then other opposition MPs converged on the podium to demand press freedom and an end to censorship.

It is believed to be the first protest of its kind in the Polish parliament for 10 years.

As the disturbances continued, PiS head Jaroslaw Kaczynski warned that those participating would not go unpunished.

“We will not be terrorised,” he said. “With utmost certainty we will pass the budget.”

The proposed new rules – due to be enforced next year – ban all recording of parliamentary sessions except by the five selected television stations. They also restrict the number of reporters permitted to enter the building.

“This restriction, first of all, does not hit journalists, but the rights of citizens to be fully informed about what people elected by them to the parliament do,” a statement compiled by the country’s largest independent news organisations said on Friday.

TVN24 for its part broadcast the parliamentary disruption with an on-screen message informing viewers they would not be able to see such scenes once the new rules are in place on 1 January.

Human rights campaigners have also condemned the plans, with Communist-era dissident Seweryn Blumsztajn condemning them as a “return to communist-era practices”.


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