We have grown used to Poland’s ruling party, Law and Justice (PiS), which constantly shifts the boundaries of what is acceptable under a democratic regime. International outrage was spark by the seizing of the Constitutional Court’s control and the plan to ban all abortions. Two protest groups were formed. The Committee for the Defence of Democracy, (KOD), and the Black Protest.
The former was able to mobilize tens of thousands of discontented people to the streets, but not to make any concessions. However, the government was force to slow down by the widespread protests against the abortion law. The total ban on abortions then put on hold.
This was the most significant success story of Polish civic protestors. But if the government makes a controversial move towards limiting civil rights in Poland, the Poles will have to take to the streets. Three disconcerting events in the last few weeks have demonstrated the government’s intent to restrict plurality of opinions.
Attacks On Non-Governmental Ruling Organizations
It can be difficult to work in Eastern Europe as a non-governmental or non-profit organization. NGOs in the Czech Republic are regularly attack and even call unnecessary by some. Viktor Orban’s government in Hungary terrorizes NGOs by performing nonsensical financial audits. They call them foreign agents.
Law and Justice Party in Poland is following the lead of Vaclav Klaus. Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Law and Justice Party leader, views civil society as redundant, a third sector that interferes with the government and people in a similar fashion to Vaclav Klaus, the former Czech president. His position makes it more difficult for NGO to work.
The right-wing media and state-run television have launched a systematic attack on civil society groups. They accuse them of taking grant money from the state and stealing money from other countries in order to undermine the government.
Organizations like the Stefan Batory Foundation which funds many civic and community activities in Poland and Krytyka Polityczna (left-leaning publishing house) have been accuse as agents of George Soros and his Open Society Foundations.
Nongovernmental Ruling Organizations
Nongovernmental organizations that oppose the government have no choice but to do so. If they receive funding from the state, it’s only for dissemination of leftist propaganda with taxpayers’ funds. They are guilty of seeking outside interests if they are fund by outside sources.
It doesn’t matter that right-wing NGO take outside money as well as that all of the accused organizations publish information on their funding sources on its web pages. In this instance, transparency does more harm than good. Poland has become a country of post-truth.
The government is currently working to establish a National Centre for the Development of Civil Society. This will oversee the distribution of funds towards non-profits. PiS is now deploying a larger, more powerful mutt to replace the traditional role played by civil society organizations in liberal democracies as a watchdog, barking at undemocratic actions.
It’s not difficult to predict what types of organizations the new center will support. Preference will given to traditional families, Catholic values, and patriotic causes. Although the government can’t ban outside funding, it can cut off state funding for many organisations.
Freedom Of Assembly Freedom Of Assembly Is Not For Everyone
A Polish parliament amendment to the law regarding freedom of assembly threatens civic activity further. Its purpose is to restrict public assembly, except when the event is being organized by the Catholic Church or the state. The right to protest publically was previously reserved for the first group to register its intentions through the appropriate channels.
This amendment appears to be a legal tool to stop conflicts between demonstrators, by preventing two events from occurring at the same moment. In reality, it simply means that government-approved events have priority over all others. Law and Justice’s efforts to remove opposition groups from the streets are reinforced by a clause that refers cyclical gatherings occurring on state holidays. These will override one-time demonstrations.
March Of Nationalists Ruling
In practice, this means that the regular march of nationalists on Polish Independence Day will be permit. But an anti-nationalist counter-demonstration could dismiss simply because it would be competition.
The European Commissioner for Human Rights, the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, and the Polish Ombudsman raised concerns. Obywatele RP (liberal civic organization) is calling for a demonstration December 10th. The Committee for the Defence of Democracy plans to march on the 13th.
It might not be very effective. This civil movement seems to be losing popularity as there was a lower. Turnout than expected at the last protest, November 11.