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Ex-minister accuses intelligence services of tapping journalists' phones

(RSF/IFEX) - Former government member Janusz Kaczmarek, who was fired as interior minister in early August 2007, reportedly told a behind-closed-doors meeting of the parliamentary commission for the secret services on 22 August that the phones of journalists critical of the government were tapped on the orders of justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro and Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

"It is unacceptable that a European Union member allows such practices to take place," Reporters Without Borders said. "Even if Polish journalists think these practices are common, it in no way reduces their gravity. It is outrageous that the secret services were told to try to manipulate the executives and editors of leading news media. This should be the subject of a high-level independent enquiry."

The press freedom organisation added: "Kaczmarek said he was ready to testify to a special parliamentary commission. We hope that such a commission will be created, even if the ruling Law and Justice Party blocked the creation of two other parliamentary commissions requested by the opposition.

Kaczmarek's testimony to the parliamentary commission for the secret services was revealed by opposition legislators, including Pawel Gras of the PO and Jerzy Szmajdzinski of the SLD. They said he named two journalists whose phones had been tapped - Wojciech Czuchnowski of "Gazeta Wyborcza" and Maciej Duda, who used to work for the national daily "Rzeczpospolita".

According to Gras and Szmajdzinski, Kaczmarek accused Ziobro of using the entire security apparatus (police, prosecutors and secret services), with the Prime Minister's full agreement, to reinforce the government's authority and weaken the opposition. He also reportedly claimed that the secret services were told to look for ways to compromise and blackmail the owners of three leading media - the TV stations Polsat and TVN and the newspaper "Gazeta Wyborcza".

A longtime close ally of Ziobro, Kaczmarek said he was fired because he could no longer go along with the government's way of working. "We live in a totalitarian state," he said.

Ziobro and six other ministers held a news conference at the offices of the president on 23 August to deny Kaczmarek's allegations. They accused him of trying to discredit Poland's judicial and security apparatus at the behest of "Poland's enemies." However, they refused to respond to any specific allegations, citing the requirements of state and judicial confidentiality.

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