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Poland Press Freedom Row: Protest Continues Outside Parliament


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

On December 17, crowds gathered outside the presidential palace and then marched to parliament.

Yesterday 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.

However, opposition lawmakers accuse it of trying to stifle press freedom.

Image source CBC

Image source CBC

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

The crowd later marched to the parliament building where opposition lawmakers are staging a sit-in.

On December 17, European Council President Donald Tusk, a former Polish prime minister, urged the government to respect the constitution.

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

In extraordinary scenes last night, opposition lawmakers blockaded the parliamentary plenary chamber, forcing fellow lawmakers from the governing Law and Justice (PiS) party into another room to vote on 2017 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.

Outside parliament, thousands of protesters gathered overnight. Police had to forcefully remove people to allow lawmakers to leave the building.

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

Governing PiS has been accused of restricting press freedom since coming to power in 2015.

In 2017 only a few reporters will be allowed into parliament, with five selected TV stations permitted to make recordings of parliamentary sessions.

PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski said on December 16 that the proposals were no different to the media access in many other European nations.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski accused protesters of hooliganism and threatened them with unspecified “consequences”.

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