“Free Media” – Opposition protests disrupt parliamentary vote

Several dozen politicians of opposition party PO staged a protest at the Polish parliament on Friday (16.12.16), bringing a key vote on next year’s budget to a halt. The protests follow a proposal of new rules which would limit media access to parliamentary sessions.

Free Media protest at Polish parliament

The noisy protest started when opposition politician Michał Szczerba voiced his protest against plans to introduce new rules on media access to sessions of the Polish parliament. Szczerba presented a poster with the inscription “free media”.

Having ignored the speaker’s instructions to leave the podium, Szczerba was excluded from the debate and following votes. Michał Szczerba was joined on the podium by other members of the opposition, chanting “free media” and “no censorship”. During Friday’s parliamentary session, politicians were to debate and vote on next year’s budget.

Following continuous protests throughout Friday afternoon, Jarosław Kaczyński, head of the ruling party Law and Justice (PiS), addressed the media and spoke of “parliamentary hooliganism”. – We will not be terrorized. With certainty we will pass the budget,- Kaczynski said.

The proposed rules on media access to parliament would ban recordings of sessions except for five selected media outlets. It would also limit the number of journalists accredited to enter the building. The new rules are expected to come into effect in January 2017.

Later on Friday evening, speaker Marek Kuchciński, who is from the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS), called a continuation of the parliamentary session. The session was held in a secondary room of the building, without the participation of most opposition lawmakers. Following a late evening vote on the budget, which was passed mainly by members of the ruling Law and Justice party, opposition lawmakers questioned whether the minimum number of voters was met.

While opposition politicians protested inside, KOD (ommittee for the Defense of Democracy), organized a protest outside the parliamentary building. The organizers spoke of approx. 2,500 participants of the rally which saw demonstrators hold up banners with the inscription “free media” and waving Polish flags. Protests in Warsaw and several other Polish cities are expected to continue today.

Image: Reuters

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