Poland surveillance law plan angers protesters

  • 23 January 2016
  • From the section Europe
Protesters in Wroclaw Image copyright AFP
Image caption "Freedom is good," read this banner carried in Wroclaw

Thousands of Poles have taken part in marches in Warsaw and other cities to protest about plans of the conservative government, which they say will curtail privacy and freedom.

Protesters shouted "democracy" and waved banners criticising planned changes to laws on surveillance.

The measures would expand government access to digital data and allow for greater surveillance by police.

The EU is investigating whether the new legislation violates its standards.

The conservative Law and Justice Party was elected with a majority last October - the first time since democracy was restored in 1989 that a single party won a mandate to govern alone.

'Privacy under threat'

"We want to keep our democracy and freedom," one of the organisers said.

"Our privacy, intimacy is under threat, we can be followed, watched over both in our homes, and online," Mateusz Kijowski, leader of the Committee for the Defence of Democracy, told the protesters.

One banner carried in Warsaw read: "You're supposed to listen, not listen in."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Protesters in Warsaw marched to the presidential palace
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption "Europe, we apologise for them," read these placards carried in Warsaw

Another sign said "Happy New Year 1984", an apparent reference to the authoritarian state portrayed in George Orwell's novel 1984.

In Warsaw, the estimated 10,000-strong crowd gathered in front of the office of Prime Minister Beata Szydlo before marching to the palace of President Andrzej Duda.

The EU is carrying out a preliminary assessment of whether curbs to the power of the constitutional court and moves to put public media under government control violate the bloc's principle of the rule of law.

Ms Szydlo told EU lawmakers this week that her government had not breached EU or Polish laws and had a mandate to overhaul the country's laws.

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