The Commune of Zakrzówek, with the financial and legal support of the ”Polish League Against Defamation” foundation is filing a claim with the District Court in Lublin for the protection of personal rights against Mr. Bart Staszewski.
The Zakrzówek Commune accuses Bart Staszewski of infringing the Commune’s personal rights. The defendant was responsible for conducting the action “LGBT-free zones in Poland”, which consisted of placing a board with the multilingual inscription “LGBT-free zone” under the official road signs with the name of the place, then publishing photos with such – unlawfully placed and which looked official – signs, in his social media and the portal he runs in English and Polish lgbtfreezones.pl and strefywolneodlgbt.pl.
“We decided to take legal action against Mr. Staszewski because his description of our Commune as a ‘LGBT free zone’ is a lie, he suggests that there is discrimination or segregation of people in our Commune. Nothing like that happens here”says the Head of the Zakrzówek Commune, Józef Potocki. “The Zakrzówek Commune welcomes everyone, tourists and investors, we are not prejudiced against anyone. The fact that Mr. Staszewski ascribes to us such negative and commonly condemned traits, is not only harmful and defamatory to the authorities of the Commune, but also to our the inhabitants. Mr. Staszewski carried out his action – as he himself writes on his website – because the Zakrzówek Commune Council adopted a pro-family declaration in which – like most of the inhabitants – it supports traditional family values. There is no mention of a “LGBT free zone”. Mr. Staszewski, interpreting the document adopted by the Council, abuses freedom of speech, by presenting the Zakrzówek Commune as a place of hate – the more so, because on his website he also refers to the ‘Atlas of Hate’.
The appearance of the information that Zakrzówek as a “LGBT-free zone” attracted many malicious, hateful comments both to the authorities and residents, on the Internet and via traditional means of communication as well.
“This situation meant that both the good name and image of the Commune were damaged. This, in turn, affects the perception of the inhabitants of our Commune by other Polish citizens. Questions – over the phone, via the Internet, which appeared after the defendant’s publication of the alleged “LGBT-free zone” clearly showed that people believed this false information and based on it, formed their opinion about the residents and authorities “- adds the attorney-at-law Michał Wiliński, representing the Zakrzówek Commune together with the representatives of the “Polish League Against Defamation” foundation.
The lawsuit presents the facts which are that – Bart Staszewski placed a false sign resembling an official road sign with the words “LGBT-free zone” in several languages, including English, below the road sign marking the built-up area and with the name of the town. He posted a photo of this sign on his Facebook profile, along with a pseudo-interview with the Commune’s elected head Józef Potocki, in which, he selectively quoted his statements. The overall tone of this Facebook post presents the Commune as a place where people are discriminated against on the basis of their sexual preferences. According to the Plaintiffs, this is a false accusation and a malicious misinterpretation of the document adopted by the Municipal Council, as well as an attempt to limit the freedom of speech, by publishing false and intimidating information.
The “Polish League Against Defamation” foundation supports the Zakrzówek Commune in its fight for their good name. Maciej Świrski, President of PLAD, says:
“First and foremost it must be clearly stated that LGBT free zones in Poland are the figment of Mr. Staszewski’s imagination. It should be noted that homosexuality in Poland was never illegal or punishable, wheras it was illegal in the UK until 1967, in the US finally in 2003 and Swtizerland in 1942. When it comes to Zakrzówek and the other places that Staszewski slanded in the same way this defamatory information, placed this town on a kind of ” list of shame “- because this is how it is perceived outside Poland, where such information spreads quickly as a sensation – which means that not only the personal rights of the Zakrzówek Commune are violated. There is also an important and by some overlooked aspect of the case: because Bart Staszewski falsely presented the Commune as a place of discrimination (in a manner similar to that of Hitler- after all, we are dealing here – in our opinion – with a deliberate use of analogies to the German term “Judenfrei”) in this way, hitting the economic interests of the Commune and its inhabitants. This kind of information about a Commune, as a place of discrimination, deters tourists and investors from coming to the town and destroys the Commune’s reputation in the context of European Union funds. At the moment, there is an ongoing discussion in the European Union about linking the transfer of subsidies, with respecting specifically understood “human rights”. False and defamatory information about Zakrzówek as a “LGBT Free zone,” may mean that the Commune will have less chance of obtaining funds for its investments ”
“Polish League Against Defamation” is financing the case against Bart Staszewski, and supports the Commune with its know-how and with media support. Further information on this matter will be released in the near future.