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The words Jarosław Kaczyński had uttered during an interview with the pro-government weekly “Gazeta Polska” should send a clear message to all those who still had any illusions that the Law and Justice party will play it nice and, put under pressure by the European Union, respect the standards of a democratic system.

Commenting on the court ruling issued by Justice Rafał Wagner which prohibits the weekly newspaper from publishing materials accusing the head of the Polish Football Association, Zbigniew Boniek, of collaborating with the communist regime, Kaczyński asserted that: “Having issued such an unfavorable decision, the court is acting in someone’s particular interest; “it only proves that the judicial system needs to undergo profound reform, both on the institutional-organizational and personal level”; “It is our duty to ensure that these unlawful court rulings are quickly overturned and that the judges who have issued them take full responsibility for their actions and, in consequence, are removed”; “Taking such a decisive stand towards this state-destroying pathology is the only way to ensure that in a few years we can eliminate the forces that today harm so many citizens”.

This is totalitarianism, pure and simple.

Kaczyński is saying that in a situation when his party has already taken over the Constitutional Tribunal, the National Council of the Judiciary, and some of the regional courts. It has also managed to compromise the Supreme Court by introducing the institution of a “Disciplinary Chamber”.

Making judges “take full responsibility for their actions”, as Kaczyński put it, is already taking place, too- it suffices to look at the crackdown on judges such as Igor Tuleya, Waldemar Żurek, Wojciech Łączewski, and other disciplinary proceedings against judges directly evoking the Constitution and the EU law in supporting their decisions.

But the leader of the Law and Justice party wants to go even further. Judges are not as afraid as they should be. They’re still issuing court rulings that are unfavorable for the pro-government media or the ruling party itself. That’s why the screw needs yet another turn.

Kaczyński’s attack on independent courts and judges is carried out under the banner of freedom of speech and media plurality. But it is his party and associated pro-government institutions that keep flooding independent media with lawsuits, demanding compensation and threatening them with prosecutorial action. It is his party that supports the “rebellious” media outlets by paying them to publish announcements issued by state-owned enterprises, while at the same time refusing to even publish official government statements about the coronavirus pandemic in “hostile” newspapers. Finally, it is the Law and Justice party that promises to muzzle government-critical media, covering up its plans with slogans like “repolonization” and “deconcentration”.

Kaczyński didn’t say a word when his long-time political friend and the current head of the National Bank of Poland, Adam Glapiński, demanded that “Wyborcza” takes down the already printed (sic!) publications criticizing the atrociously high salaries at the central bank.

What the leader of the ruling right-wing coalition said, however, gives Zbigniew Ziobro and his political subordinates a green light to do with the Polish courts anything they please. It also means that freedom of speech is reserved exclusively for those who support the ruling camp’s political line.

For the rest of us, it is a clear sign that things are about to get even worse, and that the government, strengthened by a victorious presidential election, is entering the final phase of its plan to dismantle the rule of law.

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Every day, 400 journalists at Gazeta Wyborcza write verified, fact-checked stories about the coronavirus pandemic for you.

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