Polish website allows residents to report ‘slander’ against country by foreign press

Polish website allows residents to report ‘slander’ against country by foreign press
A Polish group backed by the Foreign Ministry has launched a website allowing people to report potential slander against the nation in the foreign media, saying that Poles need to respond to “manipulated” and “inaccurate” news about their country.

The Rycerz (Knight) Initiative was launched earlier this week by the Polish League Against Defamation (RDI). It is said to be co-financed by the Polish Foreign Ministry. The project is aimed at allowing Poland to receive and respond to international media reports which it feels are untruthful.

The website will consist of both permanent workers and volunteers who will log on to "report information about slander, give the country and language, record the incident and the type of slanderous media and add attachments confirming the slander,” RDI president Mira Wszelaka said, according to AFP. The media outlets or people behind the perceived slander will then be notified and asked to correct the information.

"We should react to what is said and written about us. Especially if media outlets resort to information that is manipulated or inaccurate,” Wszelaka added. Polish officials have long argued against the media referring to Holocaust death camps such as Auschwitz as being "Polish," as they were set up by Nazi Germany after it invaded Poland.

However, Wszelaka reportedly spoke of a more recent event on the RDI website saying that "reports by Western media on the subject of the Independence Day march show that this kind of initiative is necessary." The comment was in reference to a November 11 march organized by far-right nationalists, which featured people chanting xenophobic slogans.

Poland's right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) government expressed anger after the event was dubbed "fascist" by international media outlets. It said there were only "unfortunate incidents" at the rally, and called the overall Independence Day event an expression of patriotism.

The government came under fire from the European Union and human rights groups for allowing the far-right marchers to hold banners which said racist slogans such as "Pure blood, clear mind" and "Europe will be white or uninhabited." Leading members of the PiS party denounced the hate speech, but critics said their response was too slow.

Following the march, the EU Parliament backed a resolution calling on Poland to uphold common European values, and to strongly condemn the "xenophobic and fascist march." Six Polish MEPs who supported the resolution then became the target of a separate rally in Katowice on November 25, with demonstrators displaying their portraits on mock gallows.

Poland has seen a recent surge in racist incidents, with many accusing the PiS – and its refusal to accept mainly Muslim refugees into the country as part of an EU quota system – of triggering such sentiment. Earlier this week, a Muslim cultural center came under attack in Warsaw.