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How has a news camera 'incident' led to questions about media freedom in Poland?

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Poland's president Andrzej Duda address the first session of the new Senate in Warsaw.
Poland's president Andrzej Duda address the first session of the new Senate in Warsaw.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski   -   Czarek Sokolowski
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The Polish state-owned broadcaster, TVP Info, has accused the country's Senate of violating media freedom.

On Monday, Poland's Senate said it had submitted an application to remove the press accreditation of a TVP Info journalist.

It comes after an incident outside the Polish parliament building, where a Senate representative was hit by a TV camera. The incident was captured on multiple cameras.

TVP Info says the application is an attempted "obstruction of journalists' work".

But has what led to this war of words?

The video that has caused controversy

On Monday, the Director of Information for the Polish Senate shared a surveillance video on Twitter of an incident that took place outside the Parliament buildings in Warsaw.

The video shows the Speaker of the Polish Senate, Tomasz Grodzki, leaving the building with his Director of his office, Małgorzata Daszczyk, and another member of staff.

They are followed by a television news crew from TVP info, which is trying to interview Grodzki.

As the crew follows Grodzki down the steps to his vehicle, Daszczyk collides with the camera operator and is hit in the head.

The camera operator is then pushed away.

Daszczyk was later reportedly admitted to a hospital with "symptoms of concussion and shock". Euronews has been unable to verify these claims.

The war of words on social media

Several Polish MPs have criticised TVP Info over the incident, including a Platforma Obywatelska MP, Jan Grabiec, who said the video showed "intentional aggression" from the TVP Info crew.

Grodzki's Civic Coalition alliance has also described the journalists' behaviour as "scandalous".

The Polish Senate confirmed on Twitter that an application had been submitted to remove the TVP journalists' accreditation as a result.

But TVP Info has released their own video of the incident and they describe a different set of events.

The broadcaster's director, Jarek Olechowski, has accused Daszczyk of "blocking the passage" to the Speaker and "crossing the route" of the camera operator.

"Certainly this was not an event caused by the operator of TVP Info," said Olechowski in response to the Senate's statement.

A threat to media freedom?

Olechowski said the application to remove the journalist's accreditation is an attempt to prevent TVP Info asking questions to the speaker of the Senate.

"TVP Info journalists [are] guided by the highest journalistic standards ... and operate in the public interest".

The Deputy Head of TVP Info added that "there is nothing wrong or intentional in the operation of the camera".

"Instead, we are dealing with the obstruction of journalists' work."

The broadcaster has maintained their argument that Daszczyk is to blame for the incident, and that TVP Info is "not guilty of this unpleasant event".

Olechowski seemingly further mocked Ms Daszczyk on Twitter, wishing her "a quick return to full strength".

Meanwhile, Speaker Grodzki has called for a "public apology" and says that TVP Info's response to Daszczyk's potential injuries is the "peak of rudeness".

State-owned broadcaster TVP Info has previously been criticised by politicians for its pro-government bias towards the ruling Law and Justice Party.

Presidential elections are due to take place in Poland later this year, and the influence of the media has become a key talking point in the country.

Not the first time an accident has led to criticism of the media

The war of words on Polish social media echoes a similar incident that occurred in the UK in the days before December's general election.

UK journalists from the BBC and ITV had incorrectly tweeted that an altercation had broken out between the UK Health Minister Matt Hancock and opposition Labour Party supporters outside a hospital in Leeds.

Video later revealed that a Conservative party aide had accidentally walked into the hand of protester.

The reporting on the story was widely criticised in the UK, with some accusing journalists of creating a 'fake news story' in order to shame the Labour Party activists.

What happens next for the Senate and TVP Info?

It is unclear how the application to remove TVP Info's accreditation will be received, but a spokesperson for Poland's Sejm, the lower half of Parliament has sought to simmer any tensions on social media.

Andrzej Grzegrzółka tweeted his belief that the "accident was not the result of deliberate behaviour" and has expressed regret that it occurred on Parliament premises.

"Demanding such serious sanctions as the complete withdrawal of accreditation seems exaggerated".

So who is to blame? You can watch the videos above and decide for yourself.