Poland protest Poljska.jpg
Photograph: EPA/LESZEK SZYMANSKI

Opposition groups massed in demonstration across Poland Saturday, enraged by the new government's efforts to exert its influence on the nation's media supervisor and top courts.

"Now is the time we have to take to the streets," said one older demonstrator in Warsaw. "We already had centrally controlled television once in this country."

The protests drew about 5,000 people in Warsaw, with other gatherings reported across the country. Many waved signs with slogans such as "Hands off our radio" and "The government is lying."

The new conservative government, which took power in November, has enraged portions of the population with the new measures, which give newly installed conservative judges a greater say on the nation's highest court and lets the government install a political appointee to head public broadcasters.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the head of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party compared the demonstrators to Russian President Vladimir Putin, a leader who has done much to put state controls on his nation's media.

But the government has said the media law is necessary, since state media became too biased during the eight years before the new administration took over. However, opponents say PiS officials routinely boycotted media programmes and did not respond to invitations.

The new media law went into effect Friday, with a variety of new officials named almost immediately. A new head of the public broadcasting agency is set to be named Monday.

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