* Prosecutor issues warrant to obtain tapes
* Prosecutor's spokeswoman says tapes are evidence of crime
* Poland has laws protecting journalists
* Poll shows 48 pct of Poles want government to resign
* Opposition leader calls for defence of freedom of speech
(Adds more reports from Wprost premises)
By Marcin Goettig
WARSAW, June 18 Polish prosecutors are searching
the offices of the magazine Wprost, the Warsaw prosecutor's
office said on Wednesday, after the magazine published tapes of
officials' conversations embarrassing to the government.
The move caused an uproar in the media and among opposition
politicians, who said freedom of speech was at stake in Poland,
the largest economy in central and eastern Europe and a state
hailed for its successful transition from Communism to a market
Poland has laws protecting the right of journalists to keep
their sources secret, but a spokeswoman for the prosecutor said
the tapes were "evidence" needed in criminal proceedings.
The prosecutor's office has issued a warrant "demanding the
surrender of items," Renata Mazur of the prosecutor's office
told reporters, indicating that would mean devices carrying the
recordings. "The devices ... are evidence of a crime and are
essential to the case."
Wprost released the tape recordings this past weekend of
private conversations between senior officials. They included
Interior Minister Bartlomiej Sienkiewicz and central bank chief
In that recording, made last July in the private room of a
Warsaw restaurant, the two men discuss how the central bank
might help the government out of its economic troubles if it is
heading for election defeat.
According to a transcript of the recording, Belka also
talked with Sienkiewicz about the possibility of wielding a
state "truncheon" against one of Poland's businessmen.
The deputy chief editor of Wprost, Marcin Dzierzanowski,
told TVN24 television that a prosecutor and agents of the
Internal Security Agency were trying to gain access to the
laptop of Sylwester Latkowski, the chief editor.
Latkowski appeared on TVN24, holding his laptop, and saying,
"Physical force has been used against me."
A journalist at Wprost, Michal Majewski, tweeted: "Mr
prosecutor orders use of force to take laptop of @LatkowskiS ...
This is not happening!."
"They are drawing more police to the entrance. ABW agents.
Surrounding the editorial," he also tweeted.
Polish law says that only a court decision can remove the
obligation that journalists have to protect their sources of
information. The prosecutors have not brought any charges
Reuters made repeated calls to spokespeople of the Internal
Security Agency, Warsaw Praga Poludnie district prosecution,
handling the case, but received no reply.
The Warsaw police spokesman, Mariusz Sokolowski, said that
it was not the police "conducting these actions."
"I have no idea what is happening in the headquarters of
Wprost," he said.
Television footage showed policemen and a prosecutor inside
the editorial offices of Wprost, surrounded by journalists and
The footage also showed journalist in the editorial shouting
"go home" at the police.
Prime Minister Donald Tusk has not dismissed the interior
minister Sienkiewicz, who is still in charge of law enforcement.
"We are dealing with an action against the freedom of speech
... a value protected by the constitution," said Jaroslaw
Kaczynski, leader of the largest opposition party, Law and
"We must defend (...) Polish democracy," Kaczynski told a
press briefing after news of the search emerged.
Kaczynski has called on the government to resign after the
Forty-eight percent of Poles now want Tusk's government to
step down, according to a poll by Millward Brown published by
TVN24 broadcaster showed on Wednesday. The poll also showed 30
percent of respondents said the prime minister should not
Poland has celebrated 25 years of freedom at the beginning
of June, commemorating its overthrow of the Communist regime and
the first partly free elections in 1989, in celebrations
attended by U.S. President Barack Obama and France's President
Francois Hollande, among others.
(Reporting by Marcin Goettig; Editing by Larry King)