Tuesday 23.8.2016 in Latest Developments
Respect for freedom of expression has been undermined since the government led by the conservative Law and Order Party came into power in 2015. From October 2015 to July 2016, 163 journalists, including some of the country's most prominent, were either fired or forced to quit the public television station. Worryingly, signs abound of increasing government controls on journalistic content, including manipulation and censorship. When US President Barack Obama visited Warsaw for a NATO summit in June, dubbed voice-overs, editing and reporters' comments on public television turned his message of concern regarding the state of Polish democracy into unconditional praise.
Restrictions on the Internet have also recently tightened in response to alleged security concerns. The new anti-terrorist law that came into force on 29th June sanctions the use of telecommunications shutdowns as a security tool. It grants the country's intelligence agency unrestrained access to data from all state institutions on all Polish citizens and the power to suspend access to websites suspected of illicit activity for up to four months, on the basis of vague definitions of terrorism. Judicial authorisation is not needed in order for authorities to access citizens' data, nor for them to block websites, actions which will instead only be subject to bureaucratic oversight at best.