Polish Government Expands Power to Monitor Citizens, Block Internet

Washington

In response to the Polish government’s new counter-terrorism and surveillance laws, which allow authorities to block websites and telecommunications, limit the freedom of assembly, and allow secret surveillance of virtually the whole population, Freedom House issued the following statement:

“Granting open-ended powers to intelligence agencies to counter terrorism at the cost of every citizen’s privacy and freedom marks a clear abuse of power by the government,” said Daniel Calingaert, executive vice president. “The government seems determined to allow police and intelligence agencies to monitor all personal data and all communications without needing to establish the existence of any actual threat, a disturbing step toward removing checks and balances on government action."

Background:

The Polish Sejm (lower house of parliament) approved a new counterterror law on June 10. The law contains vague provisions extending the right of intelligence agencies to shut down telecommunications networks, block websites deemed to threaten national security, and conduct surveillance of foreign citizens for up to three months—all without prior court approval. The law also widens the definition of terrorist activity and extends the period suspects can be held without charge to 14 days. On January 31, the parliament approved a measure governing surveillance power, allowing for greater access to Polish citizens' electronic data without a court approval.

Poland is rated Free in Freedom in the World 2016, Free in Freedom of the Press 2016, and receives a democracy score of 2.32 on a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 as the worst possible score, in Nations in Transit 2016.

Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.

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