Protesters in Poland block access to parliament over media restrictions

Police forcefully broke up blockades at Poland's parliament caused by protesters objecting to media restrictions on proceedings.

Several hundred protesters surrounded the Warsaw building over plans to restrict journalists' access to parliamentary proceedings.

Inside the parliament opposition lawmakers chanted "Democracy!" and "Free media!" causing the Speaker to interrupt the session and transfer proceedings to another gallery so lawmakers could vote on the 2017 budget.

The quorum for the vote was met, though the opposition slammed it as illegal.

Police forcibly removed protesters from the exit to let politicians out of the building. Credit: Reuters

The head of the PiS party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, described the protesting lawmakers' actions as "parliamentary hooliganism".

After the hours long blockade, Kaczynski left parliament in the early hours of Saturday after police used force to remove protesters.

Opposition party lawmaker Jerzy Meysztowicz said police used tear gas to disperse the protesters who tried to prevent the convoy of cars from leaving.

Video posted on social media by opposition politician Michal Szczerba showed PiS politicians following Kaczynski as they made their way towards the exit of the parliament building.

  • Video by Michal Szczerba

The demonstration was organised by the KOD pro-democracy movement, which is critical of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party's policies on media, education and the Constitutional Court.

The restrictions planned by the conservative party grant access to the parliament's press gallery to only two journalists per outlet, and ban them from shooting still pictures or video.

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

The only video images available will be provided by the parliament's official video service.

The PiS has defended the measure, saying it seeks to ensure a comfortable work environment for both lawmakers and journalists.