A blog by an American expatriate living in the heart of New Europe

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Even Radio Polonia isn't safe

Is the current PiS government so power-hungry that it has even begun bending English-language state media to its will?

There aren't too many websites where someone interested in Polish news can go for reliable English-language reportage. The Warsaw Voice, is, quite simply, crap – and only comes out weekly. The Warsaw Business Journal doesn't make many of its stories available to those who refuse to register, and except for their news digest service (also restricted) only comes out weekly. Poland Monthly is full of old news. The best source – at least what used to be the best source – is Radio Polonia.

I've been going there recently to read what they say about a particular scandal that's been getting much play in the news here, but very little internationally. Antoni Macierewicz – a very conservative politician and one of the leaders of the Patriotic Movement party (Ruch Patrioticzny), who was recently appointed as Deputy Defense Minister, began speaking to the media without thinking, it seems. A week or so ago, he claimed that most Foreign Ministers of Poland since 1989 have been Soviet spies. He provided no proof for his claims.

This caused a political uproar, since naturally the accused wanted to see what evidence Macierewicz had which would lead him to publicly defame them. Many were also upset because the statements, understandably, riled Russia at a time when Russo-Polish relations were beginning to get a tad warmer. Andrzej Lepper, Minister of Agriculture, complained that this was not helping to convince the Russians to lift their ban on Polish meat and plant products.

The media had a field day with the story, mostly because Macierewicz continually refused to present any proof whatsoever. Calls from every end of the political spectrum called for his resignation, while the Twins-in-Chief remained conspicuously silent. The calls grew so loud that Macierewicz finally apologized, saying that his statements were an “inappropriate mental shortcut” – whatever that means – but never once producing any evidence.

In response to the furor, four old allies of Macierewicz from his Solidarity days wrote a letter to Prime Minister Jarosław Kaczyński supporting the Deputy Minister.

The letter reads like the ravings of a madman who's watched too many conspiracy-theory films, and is full of errors of logic. In short, it's hogwash, and is so flawed that I'm forced to devote an entire upcoming post my comments on it, rather than enumerate them here.

The worst part, however, is that I found the letter, unabridged, uncommented upon, hardly even introduced, on the website of the once-neutral Radio Polonia. The station's English service reaches folks from all over the globe, and has a large following. A search of the site's archives for any information on the scandal produces only this letter, as well as another short article, written earlier, reporting that the letter was sent.

These two articles give credence to the government's position, without presenting any opposing view. There is little mention on the site of criticisms of Macierewicz's extremely irresponsible statements (if “causing a political storm”, and “many in the media have called for his resignation” - can be called mention of criticisms). This type of unbalanced presentation of a story has the fingerprints of PiS – which, make no mistake, is now in control of Polish Radio – all over it.

Has PiS now strongarmed so much of the public sector that even the formerly balanced Radio Polonia is becoming a mouthpiece of the government? No analysis, no opposing views, just a cut and paste job hoping to spice up the news cycle with a bit of pro-PiS propaganda?

Radio Polonia ought to be ashamed of itself.

--- UPDATE ---

It seems Radio Polonia - in the interest of reporting actual news - has published a story reporting that former Foreign Minister Wladysław Bartoszewski has resigned from his chairmanship of the council of the Polish Institute of Foreign Affairs due to Macierewicz's statements.


Blogger Gustav said...

Once home, found an earlier report - through Google, not the archives - of criticism of Macierewicz here.

Still, posting this letter without any explanation or context is irresponsible journalism at best and propaganda at worst.

8/30/2006 09:34:00 PM  

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