A statement by the Polish League Against Defamation on the subject of how the March of Independence, organized on November 11, 2018, in Warsaw was reported.
In a peaceful march about 250,000 people passed through the streets of Warsaw.
In a festive atmosphere, the participants proudly carried the white and red national colors. As has been the tradition for the last few years, many families with children took part. The march took a peaceful course, which was noted by the police, despite the fact that during some important moments, flares were lit.
Unfortunately, we are anxiously and sadly observing media reports and statements in social media which suggest that the March of Independence was a Fascist, anti-Semitic or even a neo-Nazi manifestation.
Such opinions harm the good name of hundreds of thousands of people – Polish patriots who together on that day wanted to demonstrate their love for the Homeland. It is also a defamation of the Polish state, on the international arena, through the use of hate speech in relation to the assembly of Poles.
The Independence March, which for years has been organized by NGO’s, this year had a unique character due to the 100th anniversary of Poland regaining its independence. Under the leadership of the President and the Prime Minister, participants showed that Poles are proud of their hard fought-for Independence and want to demonstrate their happiness to the whole world.
According to the law, freedom of speech and the expression of one’s views prevail in Poland. The Independence March was not the only demonstration held on that day in Warsaw to commemorate November 11th. Leftist circles also organized their own demonstration. No Fascist or neo-Nazi organizations would be able to register a public assembly because Fascism and Nazism are illegal in Poland and are subject to penal sanctions, and state authorities enforce this law. Courts in Poland are independent and do not register totalitarian organizations.
When reporting the 2018 Independence March, some media decided to note the presence of flags carried by small groups of participants, which contained symbols that some considered to be “fascist”. The same media failed to note the sea of white-and-red flags, which the Poles, in a festive mood, decided to show to the world that day. Some media went as far as to call the Polish white-red flags “Fascist symbols.” Such statements, present not only in the Polish media, and reproduced uncritically in social media, indicate that we are dealing with a deep crisis of journalism, which no longer fulfills its historically allocated functions.
First of all, a professional journalist is expected to reliably relate facts. According to the Polish dictionary, the word “relate” is defined as “giving an eyewitness report of the course of an event”. Reading what has been “related” from the Independence March, both this year and from previous years, one has the impression that some of the journalists writing about the event were not witnesses and that their reports are second-hand information – or pure lies written according to their editor’s preconceived views.
Authors of such texts have given up journalistic honesty in favor of ideology, according to which attachment to one’s Homeland and its history, respect for tradition and its symbols, and finally religion – are considered wrong and harmful, and for which there is no room in today’s globalized world.
The existence of Polish patriots is a fact, and we would like to remind people writing about the history of Poland that during World War II, Poland suffered the largest percentage of losses at the hands of Germans with Nazi views. Every fifth Polish citizen died at the hands of the Nazis. How is it therefore possible to find 250,000 Nazis in Poland, since every Polish family lost someone at the hands of the Nazis’? Such accusations contradict logic and are used to create an image of Poles as Nazis and anti-Semites. Is this not being done in order to reduce confidence in Poland, just as it is gaining a safe position based on the NATO alliance and expanding its defense system in the face of the aggressive policy of its neighboring superpower?
Poland’s traumatic experiences during World War II, as well as its period under Soviet domination, means that totalitarian ideologies of the twentieth century, such as Nazism, Fascism and Communism are widely condemned in Poland and that there is no room for them in public life.
The 2018 Independence March was one of the ways of celebrating one of the most important events in the history of Poland. Poles are proud that they can commemorate generations of fellow Poles, who were not fortunate enough to live in a free Homeland. Among the participants of the march were many who remember the Communist years well, when the celebration of the anniversary of November 11 was not only strictly prohibited, but threatened with arrest. Since 1989, it has been a patriotic event in which Poles can jointly demonstrate their pride in being Poles, regardless of their political views. Assigning Polish patriots labels of “Nazism” or “Fascism” is simply media intimidation, so that Polish symbols and Polish patriots do not appear in public.
We Poles know that freedom is not “given to us, but asked of us” and every year we are increasingly enjoying our independence. For centuries, our forefathers proved that Poles are determined to defend their identity, freedom and existence, regardless of what the cost may be. Not so long ago, “Solidarity” won Poland and other nations of Europe freedom from the Soviet occupier. And the word “freedom” is the key to understanding what we are dealing with: Poles enjoy their freedom by demonstrating attachment to patriotic values, enjoy freedom of expression in a democratic state. This is a common value for all Poles, no matter what political views they profess. The media campaign unleashed against the participants of the Independence March is an attempt to force Poles to give up their freedom of speech – and it is being done by the very people who have the word freedom permanently on their lips.
We are appealing to the media, who are writing about the march on the occasion of the anniversary of our regaining our Independence, to cease using hate speech towards Poland and us Poles. We also appeal for honesty from journalists, as journalism is a profession of public trust! Portraying a false and distorted picture, in the name of ideological blindness that destroys pluralistic societies cannot be allowed, as it leads to enslavement. We Poles have proved, more than once, that we are ready to incur the highest sacrifice in defense of freedom, and negative media campaigns only strengthen us.
Chairman of the Polish League against Defamation