WARSAW Dec 16 A Polish plan to curb media
access to parliament spurred widespread protests by non-state
media on Friday, amid concern the government is intent on
curtailing freedom of press.
The rules proposed by the head office of the Sejm, the lower
house of parliament, ban all recording of parliamentary sessions
except by five selected television stations and limits the
number of journalists allowed in the building. The rules are due
to take effect next year.
"This restriction, first of all, does not hit journalists,
but the rights of citizens to be fully informed about what
people elected by them to the parliament do," said a statement
signed by Poland's largest independent news outlets on Friday.
The plan is the latest by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS)
party to extend its authority. Within a year of taking office,
it had tightened its control over public news media and state
prosecution and moved to weaken the country's highest court.
The party, led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, said the new rules on
access to Sejm were not limitations.
"I don't believe there is anything wrong here, I don't
believe this restricts the rights of journalists," Beata
Mazurek, a spokeswoman for the party, said on Thursday, as cited
by Polish media.
"INSPIRED BY EU"
The Sejm's office said the plan, which proposes limiting
accreditations to the main building to two per media outlet, is
"inspired" by how journalists are regulated in the European
Union Parliament and other countries.
According to a document published on the Sejm website, 300
permanent and 200 temporary media accreditations have been
issued this year, and when the Sejm is in session up to 300
daily passes are granted. That means as many 800 journalists
might be at the parliament at the same time.
"The changes will not only increase the safety and
professionalism for both journalists and politicians, but will
also improve the image of Sejm and Senat (the upper house of
parliament)," according to the document.
The plan, which calls for opening a media centre in a nearby
building where invited politicians will give briefings, has also
been sharply criticised by opposition parties.
"The Polish parliament has been very open to journalists for
27 years (since the first democratic election)," the leader of
the Polish Peasant Party (PSL), Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz, told
Polskie Radio 24 on Friday.
"It has served the development of democracy in Poland, it
has served to ask tough questions. Now, there will be one
message. This is not good for the public opinion."
Poland's human rights ombudsman, Adam Bodnar, told the news
channel TVN24 that access to the parliament is granted by the
"The role of journalists is not only to follow computer
screens, but also to seize the opportunity to talk to
politicians and to do real-time checks of what's going on,"
(Additional reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko and Pawel
Florkiewicz; Writing by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Larry King)