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Poles protest plan for new surveillance law

Thousands of Poles march through Warsaw on January 23, 2016 to protest against the government's plan to increase its surveillance powers. (Photo by Reuters)

People took to the streets of Warsaw Saturday protesting against the Polish government’s planned changes to a law that would increase surveillance over citizens

Thousands of Poles marched in the capital city urging the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) to withdraw the reform plan.

"You're supposed to listen, not listen in," read one of the banners carried by demonstrators.

The proposal, which has not been signed yet, expands the government's access to digital data and loosens the legal framework of using surveillance in law enforcement.

Critics of the law say it will undermine privacy rights.

"Our privacy, intimacy is under threat, we can be followed, watched over both in our homes, and online," said Mateusz Kijowski, one of the protest organizers.

Since the PiS took power in November 2015, its efforts to exert more control over the judiciary and the media have raised concern among some in Poland.

The Polish government’s move has also alarmed the EU, which has started investigating charges that Warsaw is undermining the EU democratic principles.

People attend a protest against a new media law in the center of Warsaw, Poland, January 9, 2016. (AFP Photo)

If the probe finds Warsaw guilty of the alleged violations of the EU principles, it would lead to the suspension of Poland's voting rights in the 28-nation bloc.

Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo has defended the government’s plan. She told EU lawmakers this week that her government had not breached European or Polish laws after it made changes to the top constitutional court and put public media under its direct control.

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