Europe of Human Rights

Websites of Polish authorities are under attack. The entire Internet community is outraged. There are plans of protests in the streets. A number of sites in a gesture of solidarity have scheduled blackouts. This is all in reaction to the news that on January 26 the Polish minister of foreign affairs will sign the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.

NGOs found out about it last Thursday. Quickly the entire Internet community picked up the news and started raising objections. There are many reasons why ACTA is so heavily criticized. Civil society organizations say it poses a threat to freedom of speech, protection of personal data and that the measures it includes are not proportionate. One of the main arguments is that the agreement is so vague that it is actually difficult to predict what exactly will the effects of the act be.

What the Internet community opposes to is also the way the agreement was negotiated, For a long time the negotiations and the text of the treaty were kept secret. The only information about what it contains were coming from leaks. No real consultations with civil society were conducted. On January 19 representatives of different civil society groups, during a meeting in the Prime Minister’s office, were informed that the decision had already been made. Despite earlier commitments, Prime Minister did not conduct proper consultations.

Today representatives of the government say the Prime Minister has not yet authorized our foreign minister to sign the treaty, and therefore there is still time for discussion. Soon we will find out what is the final decision and whether Poland will sign ACTA.

The last couple of weeks and the turmoil around ACTA proved a number of things. First of all it highlighted the imperfections and the lack of transparency in the legislative process. Secondly, it showed that the governments have to start treating civil society as an interlocutor, especially when it comes to acts that may directly influence this society. Finally, the situations once again proved that civil society with Internet access does have leverage in the dialogue with government.

Zuzanna Warso, lawyer at Europe of Human Rights

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