WARSAW, Poland – Opposition groups massed in demonstrations across Poland on Saturday, enraged by the new government’s efforts to tighten controls on the nation’s media supervisor and top courts.
The protests organized by the Committee for the Defense of Democracy drew about 20,000 people in Warsaw, with other, smaller gatherings reported nationwide.
“If journalists cannot keep an eye on the powerful, then people will not know what the government is up to,” committee leader Mateusz Kijowski said at a rally in the central Polish city of Lodz.
The new conservative government, which took power in November, has angered many with the new measures, which give newly installed conservative judges a greater say on the nation’s highest court and allows the government to install a political appointee to manage public broadcasters.
The government has said that the media law is necessary, because state media became too biased during the eight years before the new administration took over.
However, opponents said that officials from the ruling Law and Justice party had routinely boycotted media programs and did not respond to their invitations.
“The demands of the [Committee for the Defense of Democracy] have nothing to do with reality,” said Treasury Minister Dawid Jackiewicz. “The people who march down on the street didn’t see that the public media was in the hands of a political group.”
The new media law went into effect on Friday, with a variety of new officials named almost immediately. A new head of the public broadcasting agency is scheduled to be named Monday.