Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Lock all of them in a cell! What happened with the freedom of speech in Europe?



Paweł Lisicki

When I received a text message from Rafał A. Ziemkiewicz right before 3 o’clock in the afternoon last Saturday, I could not believe my eyes.

The small screen clearly read “No they arresyedme”. I glanced at the message several time, but this was truly what he wrote. Earlier, we spoke about his detainment in London and what he wrote was in response to me asking him if he was released.

At first, I thought it was a joke. But then I came to the conclusion that this is impossible. Never before has he made such errors – he must have been typing in a moment of intense agitation or he was not able to correct the text. After several minutes, I called him out of concern and encountered dead silence. I found out he was in fact detained, arrested and soon to be expelled. The whole story is known and I’m not going to describe it again. One thing is crucial in this case: whether what happened to the “Do Rzeczy” columnist is a one-time incident, an unusual coincidence or a symptom of a widespread disease. A careful examination of the facts leads to the latter.

The columnist was detained and expelled because “his political views do not correspond to British values”. Did anyone examine these views? Was there any verification process or trial in this matter? Did Ziemkiewicz have an opportunity to explain and present his point of view? No. Although, as far as I know, no book of his or any major article has been published in the English language thus far, his political views turn out to be so rebellious and dangerous that Britain closes its borders to him. One can only presume what modern thoughtcrime this was about. To be honest, I don’t care about the British in the slightest. Let them sleep in the bed they have made for themselves. If they want Bolshevism, let them have it.

I am more concerned about the Polish reactions. First the official ones from the government, which were strange to say the least. After initial help from the consulate, it was expected for Warsaw to intend to clarify the matter. This was also indicated by a statement of one of the deputy ministers, who informed about clarifying with the British ambassador in Warsaw exactly which views of Ziemkiewicz are so unrighteous that they may not enter London even on a private visit. Unfortunately, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) unofficially quickly backtracked from this idea. If I understand correctly, the Polish diplomats concluded that if Ziemkiewicz was expelled from London and he is now in Warsaw, the matter is closed. I’m sorry, but it’s hard to come up with a more foolish and cowardly reaction. How can the Polish side accept a scenario in which a Polish citizen, a renown and widely respected writer, is treated in an allegedly friendly country as a dangerous extremist? Does the Polish MFA approve of violating the freedom of expression by the British and tolerate false accusations against Polish journalists? Will the Polish MFA act similarly in the cases of other individuals, who share and spread similar views to the “DoRzeczy” publicist?

The Polish government, if its opinion is not taken into account by our British friends, should act accordingly towards the British. Prepare a list of the most renown British journalists whose views are contrary to that of the Polish Constitutional order, such as supporting the LGBT movement, accusing Poland of participating in the Holocaust, and consistently not allowing them to enter Poland.

The whole story does, however, have somewhat of a positive effect to it. Among the numerous reactions there was an article which showed at a glance what the Polish left and liberals wish to achieve. It was written in the valuable like no other “Gazeta Wyborcza” by Stanisław Skarżyński. As the article describes, he is most eager to take on the role of a security guard in a high-level penitential facility dedicated for dangerous right-wingers. For the time being, he is forced to remain unemployed in Poland. He presents neither arguments nor explanations, but he is appalled that “people like Ziemkiewicz” have the right to participate in the public debate in Poland.

“In a civilized country, those who preach such views would not appear on television but watch it in an isolation ward”. Based on the article, Mr. Skarżyński would eagerly place into a cell a significant number of Poles, virtually all those whom he suspects of having views similar to Ziemkiewicz. This is the vision of the future of journalists from Czerska1: prisons full of conservatives. For now, the poor people from “GW” have to satisfy themselves with invectives and find consolation in the British who are doing some of the dirty work for them. Only slight however, because, a several-hour detention is no isolation ward and one Ziemkiewicz does not make a summer. Ah, if activists like Skarzyński were to rise to power in Poland, everything would straighten out. Fortunately, for now, all they can do is helplessly sling mud and believe that one day British authoritarianism will win over the Vistula. They’ll never see the day.

1 The publishing company of the Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper is headquartered on Czerska street in Warsaw.

The above article was published in October 2021 in “Do Rzeczy” weekly magazine.