Polish opposition leader Jarosław Kaczyński, head of the Law and Justice (PiS) party that was removed from power last month, has called on Poles to join a protest next week against the actions of the new government.
“On 11 January, a demonstration will be held in Warsaw in defence of freedom of speech, freedom of the media and simply in defence of democracy, because we have a real problem with democracy today,” said Kaczyński on Wednesday.
The demonstration – titled “Protest of Free Poles” – will take place outside parliament, where PiS lost its majority in October’s elections before being replaced by a new government, led by Donald Tusk, in mid-December.
Kaczyński claimed yesterday that the new administration aims to “fulfil the expectations of the EU”, including implementing Brussels’ planned new migration pact. They want to “reduce our country to an area inhabited by Poles and ruled from the outside”, declared Kaczyński.
The EU is preparing a „German plan” that would „annihilate the Polish state”, said Kaczyński as Poland marks Independence Day.
He warned that the incoming opposition government will „strive to implement this plan” and called on Poles to „fight” against it https://t.co/QDbxmiaazJ
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) November 11, 2023
PiS has in particular opposed the new government’s takeover of public media outlets last month, which it argues was carried out in violation of the law and has resulted in restrictions on media freedom and pluralism.
However, the new government insists that its actions were both legal and necessary, because it needed to de-politicise public media outlets that PiS had turned into propaganda outlets during its eight years in power, in violation of their statutory obligation to be neutral.
It also notes that PiS was repeatedly found to have violated the rule of law when in power, during which time Poland plummeted in international rankings of democracy and media freedom.
A prominent figure from state TV admits they produced „worse propaganda” than under communism to support the ruling party’s election campaign.
But he thinks this „Stalinist logic” backfired and contributed to the negative outcome of the election for PiS https://t.co/8CsLIeVgNz
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) October 18, 2023
Speaking yesterday, Kaczyński said that claims democracy was under threat when his party was in power “were completely invented”. He also said that “most of the media was against the [PiS] government”.
During his press conference, the PiS leader clashed with journalists after one of them asked if his party was being hypocritical, having allowed public media to become a “propaganda mouthpiece” under its rule but now claiming to defend their independence.
Kaczyński called such claims “untrue” and then accused some of the journalists present of being “paid to defend what is happening 1704365402 in Poland”. He then ended the press conference.
♦️Skandaliczne słowa prezesa PiS do dziennikarzy. – Państwo są w beznadziejnej sytuacji. To, co się wyprawia w Polsce jest nie do obrony. Państwo mają płacone, żeby tego bronić.
Zaprotestowaliśmy, co może nie być słyszane na oficjalnej transmisji, bo mikrofon został wyłączony. pic.twitter.com/KIekXGbZiv
— Patryk Michalski (@patrykmichalski) January 3, 2024
Speaking separately yesterday, Tusk again defended his government’s takeover of public media, saying they would “not take a single step back”. He claimed that PiS is only now defending public media outlets because it used them for political benefit and to pay large salaries to friendly journalists.
The prime minister admitted that undoing the “complete devastation of the legal order in Poland” implemented by PiS would sometimes raise doubts.
“When we try to solve these things, you all wonder whether it is really perfectly legal,” said Tusk. “But we all also know that the law they established is unconstitutional…We will make decisions knowing that not everyone will like them.”
Through its controversial takeover of public media, the new government has left itself open to accusations that it is guilty of the same undermining of democracy and rule of law of which it accused its predecessor, writes @AleksSzczerbiak https://t.co/GkMJKzeHUJ
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) January 3, 2024
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Main image credit: pisorgpl/X
Daniel Tilles is editor-in-chief of Notes from Poland. He has written on Polish affairs for a wide range of publications, including Foreign Policy, POLITICO Europe, EUobserver and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.