Polish minister avoids press

November 22, 1996

Journalists covering a lecture by Polish education minister Jerzy Wiatr at the University of Lodz were ejected from the building last week.

The journalists were grabbed and thrown down steps by men, later described as "unidentified persons posing as university employees". Their cameras and microphones were snatched and a camera from the local television station was destroyed.

Press appeals to security police on duty outside the university were ignored. Instead they simply smuggled the minister into the university through a back entrance and left the battered and bemused journalists outside.

Members of the Independent Students' Union NZS, who had staged a picket in front of the university, were also excluded from the minister's lecture on the United States presidential elections.

Founded early in 1981 as, in effect, the student wing of the "Solidarity" free trade union movement, the NZS was banned with the imposition of martial law in December, 1981, and was legalised only in 1989, so that it could take part in the "round table" discussions which paved the way for democracy in Poland.

Although the NZS has been less active over the past few years, it retains the traditions of its anti-communist past and has no great love for the minister.

Mr Wiatr, now a born-again democrat, was in his previous persona a leading communist ideologue.

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