Poland protests: Crowds renew calls for press freedom

Protest outside parliament building in Warsaw, Poland, December 17, 2016.Image copyright

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Supporters of press freedom kept up their protests outside parliament in Warsaw

Demonstrators in the Polish capital Warsaw have renewed their protest against government plans to restrict journalists’ access to parliament.

Crowds gathered outside the presidential palace on Saturday morning and then marched to parliament.

On Friday protesters blockaded the parliament building, leading to a late-night stand-off with police.

Poland’s populist right-wing government wants to limit the number of reporters allowed to cover parliament.

But opposition MPs accuse it of trying to stifle press freedom.

Amid a heavy police presence, a crowd of about 2,000 people gathered outside the presidential palace on Saturday chanting “freedom, equality, democracy”. Some held up copies of the constitution.

The crowd later marched to the parliament building.

In extraordinary scenes on Friday, opposition MPs blockaded the parliamentary plenary chamber, forcing MPs from the governing Law and Justice (PiS) party into another room to vote on next year’s budget.

It was the first time since the restoration of democracy in 1989 that such a vote was held outside the main chamber of parliament.

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Police kept protesters away from the parliament building on Saturday

Outside parliament, several thousand protesters gathered overnight. Police had to forcefully remove people to allow MPs to leave the building.

Protester Szymon Roginski said the confrontation was entering “a new, more aggressive phase”.

“Every day we hear news that makes us understand that we are further and further away from democracy. People have had enough,” he said.

Leader of the opposition Nowoczesna party, Ryszard Petru, accused the government of usurping parliament’s authority.

“They [the government] do not allow journalists [access], they close themselves off and meet in other places and call it the parliament,” he said.

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

“This is an usurpation of power and there will be no consent from the opposition or Polish society for it. We will protest both at the parliamentary podium and on the streets of Polish cities.”

PiS has been accused of restricting press freedom since coming to power last year.

Next year only a few reporters will be allowed into parliament, with five selected TV stations permitted to make recordings of parliamentary sessions.

The government argues that the measures are not restrictive and will stop MPs from being accosted by journalists inside the parliamentary building.

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