President Andrzej Duda in bid to defuse political row

Andrzej Duda holds talks with opposition leaders after thousands protest and MPs hold sit-in over media restrictions.

    Polish President Andrzej Duda is attempting to end a political crisis which has seen mass anti-government protests and a parliamentary blockade over planned restrictions on media access to parliament.

    Marek Magierowski, Duda's spokesperson, said the president began meetings on Sunday with opposition party chiefs, although a date for similar talks with Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the governing right-wing Law and Justice Party (PiS), had yet to be set.

    Thousands took to the streets in Warsaw for a third straight day on Saturday in protest against the PiS and the proposed measures, which include restrictions on media coverage of parliament.

    READ MORE: Journalist arrests in 2016 at 30-year high

    Emerging from a long silence, Duda called for calm, expressing his "worry" over the turmoil and offering to mediate.

    "I think a deal of some kind deal is necessary because it is impossible to function in a system where the parliament cannot debate," Magierowski told news channel TVN24 on Saturday.

    Opponents have called the proposed changes an attack on the nation's democracy, an accusation rejected by the government.

    Curbs on images

    Opposition anger boiled over on Friday, with dozens of MPs seizing parliament's main chamber over the media restrictions. Their sit-in continued on Sunday.

    The PiS intends to grant access to the parliament's press gallery to only two journalists for every media outlet, and ban them from shooting still pictures or video.

    Opponents see the curbs on media coverage as an attack on democracy [Radek Pietruszka/EPA]

    The moves prevent the media from recording images of MPs when they break the rules, for example by voting for an absent colleague.

    The PiS has defended the measure, saying it was seeking to ensure a comfortable working environment for both politicians and journalists.

    The government, which came to power about a year ago, has faced criticism for a series of controversial measures including tightening the abortion law and changes to Poland's constitutional court's decision-making rules.

    The government has faced criticism since coming to power about a year ago [Marcin Obara/EPA]

    SOURCE: News agencies


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