Poland's communist authorities today postponed planned talks with Solidarity over the union's access to the officially controlled mass media.
The delay in the talks, which had been expected to resume this week, could further complicate attempts to ease tensions in recent days around the issue of the mass media. Solidarity has accused the government of launching an anti-union propaganda campaign and threatened a six-day printers' strike unless agreement is reached on coverage of its first national congress next month.
Both sides regard access to the media as central to the power struggle initiated with Solidarity's birth a year ago, following massive strikes along the Baltic coast. In a speech earlier this week, Communist Party leader Stanislaw Kania said the media could never be apolitical since they constituted such an important element in the country's life.
Kania said: "The party does not hide the fact that it exercises a leading role over the media. I can declare that although our patience will not run out in the talks [with Solidarity], we will also remain determined to prevent the disruption or immobilization of such an important element in the country's life as the press, radio, and television."
Union officials also regard state control over the media as a vital bastion of the party's authority, which is why they ar prepared for such a long and bruising struggle over the issue. But, while Solidarity leaders such as Lech Walesa urge caution and patience, rank-and-file members are demanding immediate changes.
Today, printers in the northern town of Olsztyn decided to ignore an appeal by Solidarity's national leadership and continue with their weeklong wildcat protest. The strike was originally called to demand a formal government retraction of a claim that some printers had been prevented from working during a national newspaper shutdown last week.
Solidarity leaders urged that the strike be called off for the sake of unity. A leading dissident, Jacek Kuron, who acts as an adviser to Walesa, was dispatched to persuade the Olsztyn printers to go back to work -- but he failed to convince them.
The Olsztyn dispute is embarrassing for the union leadership, which is preoccupied with preparations for its congress in Gdansk Sept. 8. Suspicious of the government's intentions, Solidarity has demanded the right of editorial control over reports on the congress on television and radio.
Today, union officials said representatives of Polish television might be excluded form the proceedings unless the matter is resolved. As with the Communist Party congress in Warsaw last month, the meeting is likely to be attended by hundreds of Polish and Western journalists.
Solidarity quoted the government's newly appointed press chief, Jerzy Urban, as saying he was "too busy" to hold talks on the subject tomorrow. Urban could not be reached for comment.
Solidarity's allegations of increased government manipulation of the mass media have been supported by the Association of Polish Journalists which, in a statement earlier this week, accused official commentators of presenting only the government's side.
The independent association said "the campaign against correct information" only served to strengthen the extremist wing of Solidarity and block the way to agreement.
A similar line was taken by the Roman Catholic Church leadership in Poland, which has called on both sies to show greater respect for each other. Poland's primate, Archbishop Jozef Glemp, said yesterday the country was increasingly divided into two groups, each convinced of its own righteousness.
yhe said it was enough to turn on radio or television to see how one side -- the government -- attempted to project itself as "virtuous and saintly," constantly condemning the "impudence and injustice" of its opponent. But he also criticized Solidarity for taking "excessive measures" in its defense.
Both sides, he added, should recognize the need for cooperation at a time when Poland was threatened by poverty.