June 20, 2014 / 1:51 PM / in 3 years

UPDATE 1-Poland acknowledges raid on magazine was heavy-handed

* Magazine published secret tapes that embarrassed govt

* Prosecutors raided premises looking for recordings

* Justice Minister says prosecutors went too far (Adds quotes and background)

By Marcin Goclowski and Christian Lowe

WARSAW, June 20 (Reuters) - Poland’s government acknowledged on Thursday law enforcement officers had gone too far when they raided the offices of a magazine and tried to seize leaked tapes that have embarrassed senior officials.

The night-time raid on the magazine’s offices, during which officers tried to wrestle a laptop containing the recordings out of the arms of the editor-in-chief, provoked a storm of outrage over respect for press freedom.

It aggravated an already deep crisis for the government over the tapes, with Prime Minister Donald Tusk facing opposition calls to fire ministers, and hinting he may be forced to call a snap election.

Poland’s zloty currency fell to a three-week low on Friday after a member of the central bank’s rate-setting council said central bank governor Marek Belka - one of the officials recorded in the tapes - should consider his position.

The currency has lost over one percent since the release of the tapes, and all the gains it made this year.

The Wprost news magazine published recordings of a conversation between Belka and Interior Minister Bartlomiej Sienkiewicz in which the two men discussed how the central bank might help the government avoid election defeat, and ways to put pressure on a businessman.

Both men have said their words were taken out of context and they did nothing which broke the law. They say the ideas they were discussing never materialised.

“This situation should have never taken place,” Justice Minister Marek Biernacki told a news conference, in reference to the raid on Wednesday night.

Justice ministry officials said four prosecutors, eight internal security agency officers, and five policemen entered the magazine’s offices in the raid, and a further eight police were outside the building.

“The prosecutors’ actions can be considered as too far-reaching and could raise legitimate concerns about breaching of journalistic confidentiality,” Biernacki said.

The emergence of the tapes - and the government’s handling of the issue - has tarnished Poland’s reputation as one of the more transparent and well-governed European Union states to have emerged from behind the Iron Curtain.

The discussions between Belka and Sienkiewicz, which included expletive-filled discussions about members of the rate-setting council and other ministers, were deeply embarrassing for Tusk’s government.

After the raid on the offices of the magazine - which says it will publish more of the tapes next Monday - some of Tusk’s own supporters joined the opposition in criticising the government.

The justice ministry’s acknowledgement that mistakes were made during the raid appeared to be part of an attempt by the government to control the damage. (Additional reporting by Marcin Goettig; Editing by Christian Lowe and Andrew Roche)

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