Freedom of the press in Poland Poland’s Sjem, or lower house of parliament, was the site of a showdown on press freedoms. (Sejm RP/Pawe? Kula - Flickr/Creative Commons/Wiki Commons)
Freedom of the press in Poland
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Visit the halls of government in most developed countries. You’ll see politicians at work. You will also see journalists. They document the decision-making with cameras and computers. But for five days in 206, the Polish parliament’s debating chamber banned journalists altogether. Polish parliament’s media ban was lifted on Tuesday. December 20, 2016. So reported Marcin Goettig for Reuters. But questions about the fate of the country’s free press remained.

The temporary ban was lifted after Poles took to the streets. They protested. Tensions flared after the ruling Law and Justice Party announced that most journalists would be banned from entering the Sejm. It is the lower house of parliament. This was supposed to start in 2017. This was what Goettig and Lidia Kelly reported.

Journalists would be required to interview officials from a separate building. Recording of parliamentary sessions would also be banned for most media outlets. The announcement of the changes caused tensions to flare inside the Sejm. An MP stood on the podium. He held a sign that read “free media.” He was joined by others. Parliament was brought to a halt.

Then, the Law and Justice-dominated parliament did something unusual. They kicked all reporters out of the building. Then they went to a side room and held what the opposition says was an illegal vote. It was on the 2017 budget. That prompted widespread demonstrations just days after the government began cracking down on public gatherings.

The timing was sensitive for Poles. December 13 marked 35 years since the country’s communist government had imposed martial law. It jailed and killed its opponents. The target of the crackdown was Solidarity. It was a trade union that became a movement to democratize Poland. During a year and a half of martial law, Poland’s journalists were targeted. So freedom of the press has remained a critical issue for Poles. They remember a time when voicing opposition could cost you your life.

That freedom had already been challenged by the Law and Justice Party. The far-right party is now the most powerful party in Poland. It took power after running on a platform that promised Poles a return to conservative values. And it promised resistance to globalization and refugees. Soon after taking office, the party began to “reform” Polish journalism. It took over public broadcasting and it took over the hiring and firing of some journalists. The new government also spurred an ongoing constitutional crisis. It did so by overlooking existing laws that dictated how the country’s highest court should function.

The nationalist Law and Justice Party has been criticized for its attempts to control how journalists characterize Polish history. Smithsonian.com’s SmartNews reported in 2016, that the parliament had moved to ban the term “Polish death camps.” This was a move some claim minimized the role Poles played in the Holocaust. But for many Poles, closing the door on lawmakers’ once-public debates was a step too far.

Members of the opposition staged a five-day sit-in on the floor of the parliament. It continued even when their opponents turned off the light and heat inside the building. And outside, thousands of protestors gathered in the chilly December weather to make their voices heard.

The ban was lifted, but it still wasn’t clear what the Law and Justice Party’s next move would be. As Goettig notes, the party still has support due to a rise in the minimum wage. It was also due to other social reforms. Onlookers continued to keep a close eye on the situation. This included the European Union, which conducted an investigation. It was of Poland’s rule of law since summer 2016. The world watched Poland. They will continue to do so, that is, if the cameras and computers stay on.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why might it be important for a country to have freedom of the press?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (20)
  • 24sjolsi
    4/24/2018 - 10:21 a.m.

    It is important for a country to have freedom of press, because people need to be able to speak their minds. Freedom of Press allows people to take a stand against things. It also allows people to say what they want on social media or in the news.

  • 24djhans
    4/24/2018 - 10:26 a.m.

    It was very important that the ban was lifted. So they are rising minimum wage. A place that investigated were European Union.

  • 24allivi
    4/24/2018 - 10:28 a.m.

    It would be important for a country to have freedom of the press because people would want to know what's going on.

  • 24crmcke
    4/24/2018 - 10:29 a.m.

    It might be important because it allows people to tell the world what is happening. I think it would be a good idea to do this because you might want

  • 24keolse
    4/24/2018 - 10:30 a.m.

    So that people can understand what's going on in their government. Because if they don't their government will probably do things without the people knowing. So that they could make decisions that go against the people.

  • 24crmcke
    4/24/2018 - 10:30 a.m.

    It might be important because it allows to tell the world what is happening. This would be a good idea to do this because you might want to know what is going on in the world.

  • 24iwboyc
    4/24/2018 - 10:33 a.m.

    It is important to to have freedom from the press because people should have freedom to print what they want. It could be very important what there tying to print. They could lose there job if there don't print what they want.

  • 24raheri
    4/26/2018 - 10:25 a.m.

    I think its important to have freedom of the press because without that freedom, no one would be different. Our actions and opinions define us, so without that how can we define ourselves. People should share their opinions with the world, and for that they need the right to.

    COMMENT: Good job protesters, you are making the world a better place.

  • 24dmjohn
    4/26/2018 - 10:25 a.m.

    It would be important because if you didn't how would the people find out what was going on. I liked this article because it shows how the Freedom of press is doing in Poland.

  • 24jmfryc
    4/26/2018 - 10:26 a.m.

    It might be important because they all ready were have been challenged by the law and justice they should be able to make social reforms on what happens and whats happening

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