WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Thousands of opponents of Poland's new right-wing government held protests in Warsaw and other cities on Saturday against policies which they say threaten democracy and media freedom.
The street protests were organized by a new group calling itself the Committee for the Protection of Democracy that rallied tens of thousands of Poles last month against the ruling Law and Justice party. This time, thousands of people waving national white-and-red flags and European Union flags joined in the capital, as well as in the cities of Wroclaw, Krakow, Katowice, Lodz and elsewhere. They chanted "Free Poland, Free Media" and "Stop Spoiling Democracy." Some had lips sealed with tape, to suggest freedom of speech was threatened.
The protesters say that changes that the government made to bring a constitutional court and state broadcasters under the control of the ruling Law and Justice party threaten media freedom and democracy.
The new media law took effect Friday, cutting short the terms of the state radio and television heads and transferring the authority to appoint successors to the treasury minister, from a separate media commission that reports to the parliament. The minister immediately appointed right-wing politician and journalist Jacek Kurski to head state television.
Last month, the parliament changed legislation concerning the appointment of judges to the Constitutional Tribunal, a top court.
The moves have also alarmed some European Union leaders and the European Commission will debate Poland's rule of law on Wednesday.
The government, which took power in November, argues it needs to reform some state bodies because they represent only the interests of the previous liberal ruling team.