Thousands staged protests across Poland on Saturday against a new law they say threatens the independence of the country’s public broadcasters.
Demonstrators chanting “Free Media!” took to the streets in 20 towns after the ruling Law and Justice party pushed through legislation that ended the terms of management and supervisory board members of public broadcasters TVP and Polish Radio.
Law and Justice (PiS), which came to power in October general elections, has accused the Polish public media of being biased against it and pledged sweeping change.
Saturday’s protests were organised by the recently-created Committee for the Defense of Democracy (KOD) and included opposition MPs.
In Warsaw, demonstrators flocked to the TVP television station headquarters. City Hall officials said that around 20,000 marchers took part.
In the central city of Łódź, hundreds of people carrying both the Polish red and white national flag and the EU flag sang Poland’s national anthem.
Stefan Niesiołowski, an MP for the Civic Platform (PO) party, which suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of PiS in October, said he was protesting against “censorship.”
A group of nationalists were involved in a scuffle, tearing a copy of the Polish constitution from the hands of one of the Łódź demonstrators, the PAP news agency reported.
One protester told reporters, “We’re heading in the direction of dictatorship.”
The country’s new media law was signed by President Andrzej Duda on Thursday and came into force a day later.
Deputy Culture Minister Jacek Kurski, a former Law and Justice MP, was Friday appointed by the treasury minister as the new head of TVP. Kurski insisted that he aims to protect “the independence of public television from the dangers of the world of politics.”
But on Saturday the protesters, some of whom chanted “Down with fascism!” claimed that under Kurski TVP would become a government propaganda machine.
Marches were held Saturday in Polish cities including Poznań, Wrocław and Kraków. Journalists were among those taking part.
Previous anti-government demonstrations held by Committee for the Defence of Democracy over two weekends at the end of last year saw tens of thousands turning out across the country in protest at changes to the judiciary pushed through by Law and Justice. (pk)