Friday

28th Jul 2017

Polish TV attacks pro-democracy 'putsch'

  • "Chain of Light" was "attempted putsch" Polish TV said (Photo: Bartek Kuzia)

Demonstrators in Polish cities have raised an outcry over judicial reforms amid a toxic media campaign.

The largest protests were in Warsaw, where 10,000 people, according to city authorities, assembled outside parliament and outside the supreme court on Sunday (16 July).

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  • Kaczynski accused judiciary of "moral collapse" (Photo: pis.org.pl)

Thousands of people also assembled in other cities, including Katowice, Krakow, Lodz, Opole, Poznan, Szczecin, Torun, and Wroclaw.

People lit candles around court buildings in what they called a “Chain of Light”.

They also carried signs and chanted slogans which accused the ruling party, Law and Justice (PiS), and its leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, of turning Poland into a “dictatorship”.

The demonstrations came after PiS extended its control over Poland’s judiciary by passing two bills in the senate on Friday.

The first one lets the government pick 15 out of 22 judges on the National Council of the Judiciary, which supervises judicial ethics. The second one lets it appoint district and appeals court judges.

The laws still have to be signed by Polish president Andrzej Duda, but he is loyal to Kaczynski.

A third bill, to be debated in parliament on Tuesday, would also let PiS appoint supreme court judges.

Poland was already under European Commission scrutiny after the Kaczynski government installed loyalists in the country’s constitutional tribunal.

The behaviour of Polish state media also showed to what extent they have fallen under PiS control.

TVP, a national broadcaster, accused the Polish opposition of trying to organise a violent coup on Sunday.

“Low turnout in front of Sejm despite Gregorz Schetyna’s call for putsch” it said in a red banner over its images of the Polish parliament, referring to the leader of the Civic Platform opposition party.

TVP also attacked an individual journalist, Dorota Bawolek, from the Polsat broadcaster, who is based in Brussels, for having asked what it called “provocative” questions in an EU Commission press briefing on Thursday.

The TVP accusation prompted abuse against her on Twitter after she asked the Commission for a comment on the judicial reforms.

The Committee for the Defence of Democracy, an NGO, helped to organise Sunday's rallies, which were attended by members of the Civic Platform and Modern opposition parties.

The NGO used similar rhetoric to TVP, saying on its website that people had to “Stop the Coup d’Etat!”.

"Today we know that a great fight has begun and we know we must be together, we know we must fight against them together," the Civic Platform’s Schetyna told a crowd in Warsaw on Sunday, the Reuters news agency reported.

Kaczynski told press on Friday that the Polish judiciary needed “far-reaching, radical” reforms because it had suffered a “collapse of moral principles, professional morality, general morality”.

He also said courts suffered from “huge inefficiency, delays in cases, which cause many people to suffer”.

An EU spokesman last Friday indicated that Frans Timmermans, the Commission's deputy head, would speak out on the developments in Poland this week.

Poland 'leaving EU community of values'

Leading MEPs and legal watchdogs have raised the alarm on Polish judicial reforms, but the European Commission declined to speak out so far.

Journalists on trial highlight Turkey crackdown

The trial, which opened Monday, of 17 journalists and administrative employees of the daily newspaper Cumhuriyet is considered one of the most important episodes in a systematic campaign to silence dissent.

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