Yesterday afternoon and last night were extremely tense in Poland. The governing party proposed restricting access for the media to the parliament suggesting using a separate building where a limited number of selected journalists would be allowed to meet with the MPs who agreed to talk to them. The government claimed that these changes are based on universally accepted rules in, amongst others, the European Parliament. Civic Platform, Kukiz’15, Modern and the Polish People’s Party held together a press conference in support of keeping unrestricted access of the media to the parliament. The situation escalated when one of the opposition’s MPs, Michał Szczerba, was excluded from the proceedings by the the Speaker of the House. The opposition (CP, Modern and PPP) staged a protests in the support of the MP blocking the speaker’s podium and the proceedings, demanding the MP to be reinstated.
In the meantime, Law and Justice relocated to the Column Hall where the Parliament Guard prevented members of the opposition from entering the room claiming it is a private meeting of the party. At short notice, the meeting was announced to be an official parliamentary session. Law and Justice members were desperately trying to reach the required quorum by trying to convince the independent MPs and members of Kukiz’15 to join. One of the independent MPs who joined was Małgorzata Zwiercan, who in the past was caught illegally casting a vote for an absent MP – an event that would not have been caught on the tape by the media under the new proposed access restrictions. Two MPs from Kukiz’15 joined as well, while the majority in very strong words refused to stand with the governing party. As there are no voting buttons installed in the Column Hall, Law and Justice held a vote by counting raised hands. Media were banned from entering the hall but a number of videos was published live by MP Piotr Marzec (Kukiz’15) who refused to take part in the vote. A number of opposition MPs were still being restricted from entering the hall to vote by the guards who informed them that they were following the orders from the Speaker. There are many doubts regarding the number of the MPs who voted and if the quorum was indeed reached. Krzysztof Brejza from Civic Platform published a video suggesting that a number of MPs from the governing party appeared after the vote to sign the attendance list.
While leaving the parliament after the vote, Jarosław Kaczyński – who is the leader of Law and Justice but does not hold any position in the government – seems to have grabbed a mobile phone out of MP’s Pomaska’s hand and thrown it on the floor. The Parliament Guard escorted him outside while physically restricting opposition MPs from leaving the parliament to follow him.
In the meantime, a spontaneous citizen protest was taking place outside the parliament, in support of a formal journalist strike. The protesters blocked the exit from the parliament but the police used physical force in order to enable the members of the government to leave the area.
Many opposition MPs spent the night at the parliament in order to monitor the situation. Today, the media were told that journalists are banned from entering the parliament until further notice. Further citizens protests are expected to take place over the weekend.
Photo: Piotr Knap