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Political ACTA

Published on January 30, 2012 by: in: Politics

The generation 50+ which is governing the country did not understand that the attempt of limiting the freedom of using the Internet, which for few millions of young people is as real as the world outside the window (sometimes even more real) will change Poland into a nest of furious wasps.

One of the myths which was debunked by the mass protests of internauts against ACTA is an extraordinary ability of the current government to sense the public feeling and to effectively communicate with it.  Right from the first hours when ACTA became the topic no.1 in Polish media, the government committed one gaffe after another. Michał Boni – Minister of Administration and Digitalisation – was giving confusing explanations concerning the open debate, and finally stated that it has been lasting since 2008 and that this issue is demonised in Poland. Indeed the debate was conducted by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.  Among the organisations invited to the debate one could find only those which benefit from ACTA, i.e.:  Foundation of Audiovisual Works Protection, Polish Audiovisual Producers Chamber of Commerce, Society of Authors ZAiKS and the like. One can equally well invite Big Bad Wolf, Kaa Snake and Mr. Badger to debate on the problem “Should the henhouse be open at night?” Minister Zdrojewski, do you know these fairy tales?

Paweł Graś brilliantly stated that the governmental websites hang because they generated too much interest, however, only one day later on the www.premier.gov.pl (Prime Minister’s website) one was welcomed by Mrs Basia stylised as Wojciech Jaruzelski.  If it is the truth that the password and login were ‘admin 1’ and ‘admin’, we should actually be grateful to the hackers for drawing attention to this – the embarrassment could be bigger.

Until recently the Polish government was boasting of forcing the ACTA agreement through, calling it on the Innovative Poland portal www.pi.gov.pl to be the “success of Polish presidency.” “Polish presidency can be also proud about another success. According to what the Ministry of Economy stated, the Council of the European Union made the decision to sign the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. The resort underlined that this was one of the priorities chosen for the period of Polish leadership in the Council of the European Union.” After exposing the ACTA case they became – in the same text – only one of the decisions made by the Council of the EU during Polish leadership.

Donald Tusk was defending the decision on signing ACTA in Tokyo, as it was announced on Thursday 26th January, referring to the fact that Poland belongs to the democratic countries club which, with absolute certainty, cannot be suspected of any attempt to limit freedom (reminds of the democratic traditions of South Korea and Mexico – the country of law), not mentioning the fact that the USA government, influenced by the resolute protests, secretly starts to withdraw from the SOPA pack, which can limit the privacy of internauts to the greater extent. It is worth noticing that, with absolute certainty, closing, among others, the Wikipedia website warmed up the atmosphere in Poland and the protests against ACTA which already were intensive. Tusk stated the following: “the intention of the Polish government and the previous government under my management is not to a lesser extent limiting the freedom in the Internet. I definitely share such liberation enthusiasm of all these people who appreciate the Internet because of the fact that, among others, it is the space of freedom.”

Could he really forget that only the resolute protests of internauts caused that the government partly withdrew from the gambling act which was passed very quickly? He definitely forgot about the promise made to the internauts that each new law that will concern them will be consulted with this social group. Among others, Vagla reminds that “Of course I remember when during the meeting with the internauts the Prime Minister said that the decisions concerning ACTA will not be made without thorough explanations (to public opinion) of all the doubts which were signalled during the works on this agreement which was long kept secret.” That disrespectful treatment of the internauts and unilateral imposing the rules of the game can end up badly for the government was foreseen soon in December by Wacław Iszkowski “if the young generation will organise an e-demonstration, then each demonstration outside this building (The Chancellery of the Prime Minister) would be nothing compared to that one.

Indolence of the Civic Platform (the leading party in the Polish Government) is incredible, especially when one would take into consideration how efficiently they used to cope with containing conflicts and distracting attention from them. Even on the occasion of the action against the open pension fund, the media did not transmit to that extend the comments which were critical of the government. Of course as the time will go by, after signing the document, when it appears that the protests are pointless they become less intensive. Most probably it was on one hand because of the feeling that after the victory at the election the party can do anything and, on the other hand, because of the total lack of understanding of the governing generation 50+ for people for whom the Internet is as real as the world outside the window (or even more real). Poland is among the world leaders in the exchange of files. It was easy to guess that an attempt to limit what is perceived as something absolutely natural for millions of Polish people (just like Telexpress (a very popular news programme) or the soap opera after work for old generations) will end up badly for the government (what would happen if they stopped emitting Bold and Beautiful?). But they could not understand that.

The mobilisation of the internauts will not end up with establishing a party – the protesters have nothing more in common than the opposition to the agreement. However, it has a great unused political potential. It’s a wonder that the opposition parties manage so poorly with taking advantage of this public outrage at the government of the Prime Minister Tusk – but these people belong to the same generation and are equally alien in this world. The government can be sure of one thing – the internauts will never forget what it did. Things don’t just disappear in the Internet, Mister Prime Minister.

Translation: Joanna Brodowska

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About Leszek Jażdżewski

Politologist, publicist, regular political commentator in Polish media. Editor in chief of “Liberté!”, Polish liberal socio-political journal. Studied international relations in University of Lodz, Institute of Political Studies on Polish Academy of Sciences, Glamorgan University in UK and Tbilisi University in Georgia. Vice-president of Liberal Forum, member of the council of Projekt: Polska Foundation, secretary of the board of Transport Integration Society, vice-president of Industrial Foundation. Coauthor of books: “Liberal reflections on life chances and social mobility in Europe” and “Democracy in Europe. Of the People, by the People, for the People?”

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