Fifteen German media outlets refused to accept an interview depicting events in Poland from a perspective different than promoted by “Gazeta Wyborcza”.
On March 4th the German daily newspaper “Tagesspiegel” published a Gregor Dotzauer interview with Polish poet Adam Zagajewski. The interview recited all the anti-Polish stereotypes from recent months. In the interview Zagajewski complained that “our country was stolen” and “the new government simply takes everything.” Furthermore, the poet arrogantly said that he spoke “on behalf of the majority of Polish intellectuals” and “no well-known artists or the majority of intelligentsia support PiS.” Zagajewski also complained that the new government “makes great heroes of the so-called damned soldiers (soldiers fighting the communist government after WWII).” Predictably Zagajewski finished his arguments pointing to the alleged Polish anti-Semitism and xenophobia which “exposed Poland’s wide-spread nineteenth century backwardness“, and ”Poles do not like strangers.”
During the interview, the German journalist backed Zagajewski as he spoke of a “toxic atmosphere, primarily the doing of Jaroslaw Kaczynski” and comparing KOD (the so called “defenders of democracy”) to trade union “Solidarity.” Portal wpolityce.pl published a piece on this obnoxious interview.
I must admit that I was outraged after reading this interview. I called the office of “Tagesspiegel” and spoke with journalist Dotzauer and asked how they determined that “our country had been stolen from us” since we Poles had just chosen our representatives in fair parliamentary and presidential elections? How does this relate to the German passion for the rule of law? His response was silence. I also asked why he printed Zagajewski’s assertion that no artist supported PiS, since in fact there were many. “I don’t know any such artists” – responded Dotzauer. I started counting: Rymkiewicz – he did not know, Pietrzak – did not know, Bujak … “Bujak?” – the German journalist asked disbelievingly, “the famous photographer?” I confirmed. “Yes, I know him, and it would be a significant opinion … “. “Perfect” – I answered to my German colleague, “I’ll make an interview with Adam Bujak, I will translate it to German. It will be on the same subject, but it will show a different perspective, certainly you would appreciate it, this is would be a perfect example of true pluralism that Germans are so keen on teaching us, Poles.” He started mumbling that he could not promise anything, but asked to send him the interview.
A few hours later the interview, in German, was in his mail box. I added that I did not wish any royalties, and if they didn’t have room in the print edition, to publish it on the Internet.
Three days later I got a reply. Negative! The German journalist tried to convince me that “it was not because they did not want to show a different opinion.” Instead – he argued – “it would be strange to reply to an interview with another interview, especially that the original one came from a different office in Krakow.“ What a ridiculous excuse, an article which responds to another article is a perfectly normal everyday occurrence regardless as to where it came from. It is actually not only normal but the most desirable situation in editorial rooms.
This puzzled me, so not to be outdone; I sent my interview to fifteen other German media outlets (newspapers, magazines and portals). Not a single one accepted my interview! This is how pluralism works in the media of our German neighbors who never miss an opportunity to lecture us.
Below, we present the interview which so scarred the German media. The entire interview appeared in the monthly magazine “Wpis”. Please see for yourself, what the Germans do not wish, and seem to be afraid of. In the interview Adam Bujak does not offend anyone, unlike Zagajewski, he simply tells the truth as he knows it. So let the truth be known.
Adam Sosnowski: Adam, you are a world famous photographer, you published 130 books in 12 languages, and your photographs are exhibited in galleries from New York to Tokyo. In the days of communism you were involved in the civil rights movement, and on your photographs – some of them very dramatic – you recorded the demonstrations and protests that were violently pacified by the communist regime. Many years has passed since then, and now some people again take to the streets in Poland to demonstrate every week in the defense of democracy. Is democracy in Poland really endangered?
Adam Bujak: They should’ve tried to demonstrate during the communist regime … Unlike me these people do not know the taste of police buttons and prisons and that’s why they rave about the lack of democracy. Comparing the current situation with the times of communism is absurd. The currently ruling party, PiS, won last year’s spring and autumn elections in a completely legal and democratic way. So if someone says that there is no democracy in Poland, they cast doubt on the legitimacy of these elections. This type of attitude actually undermines democracy. Unfortunately, the foreign media feeds on these attitudes, and in addition they cite the comments presented by one Polish national newspaper – “Gazeta Wyborcza”. This paper presents a left-liberal profile and was heavily supported by the previous PO party liberal government. It is true that the current government withdrew millions of dollars from “Gazeta Wyborcza’s” advertising.
Sosnowski: Nevertheless there is a group of people who apparently feel threatened and have a need to protest in Poland. We can see it on video reports and photos shown on television and the Internet.
AB. I believe the so-called Committee for Defense of Democracy (KOD) established a few months ago in Poland is a farce. The supporters of KOD get together and march every week in the streets of Polish cities. All media – including the public media – cover them. The Police protect the participants, the authorities duly issue all necessary permits, and everything is done according to law. Please try to organize such protest in Putin’s Russia. It really amazes me a great deal as to how in the world the German chairman of the European Parliament dares to call our country, “A Putin Style Democracy”. I regard this opinion as extremely unjust, simply shameful. KOD operates in Poland without problems and this is the best proof that democracy in Poland is not threatened. Could you tell me how exactly it might be in any kind of jeopardy?
Sosnowski: Critics allege that the Constitutional Court was incapacitated and the public media was completely subjected to government control.
AB. I cannot understand these arguments at all. The whole theater around the Constitutional Court is simply a media spectacle. The previous government team shortened the term of five judges enabling them to appoint their successors before an expected election loss. This in itself was unconstitutional and a legal dispute became the only logical consequence of this abuse of power. Besides, the remaining ten judges took an oath of office under the previous government, so the Constitutional Court continues to be controlled by opponents of the current government.
Sosnowski: That’s true, the legal experts are divided and there is definitely no clarity regarding the situation surrounding the Constitutional Court. The best solution to an existing stalemate would be to pursue a multi-party compromise. But the second big objection to PiS (Law and Justice Party) is that they exercise control over the public media.
AB. It is true that this is often raised, but two issues need to be explained. First, the previous government exercised total control over the public media. They were formally managed by an independent five-people body, but the members of this body were appointed by the President, the government and the Senate. The previous ruling party – PO (Civic Platform) – had a majority everywhere. They had the public media under strict control without any trouble.
Sosnowski: And the second issue?
AB. The politics exhort the greatest, decisive influence on the public media in other countries also. The Governing Board of the Austrian public television (ORF) has 35 members, most of them appointed by the Austrian government, and some also by the Chancellor. Yet no one claims that democracy is at risk in Austria. In addition, their public media is called the state media. So who is supposed to represent the state, its enemies?
Sosnowski: The reason for our conversation was an interview that Adam Zagajewski gave the German newspaper, “Tagesspiegel”. Zagajewski claims the Poles had their country stolen. Do you agree with him?
AB. Not at all, on the contrary! I had the impression that our country was stolen from us during the previous eight years when the liberal PO party was in power. During that time I was not invited to public television and my books and albums ceased to be presented. They hushed up about them as if they were in a grave. But because PO won elections (and one should respect the democratic choice) I did not sign up for any KOD, I simply waited for the next elections to have a chance to win. Now the PO badly lost the last elections and had to become the opposition. The change of government in a democracy is not only normal, it is also healthy. When someone calls it theft, they use the wrong words and must ask themselves whether they even understand the meaning of democracy. Democracy it is not only when you win, but also when you lose.
Sosnowski: In the aforementioned interview, Zagajewski also stated that no well-known artist “is on the side of PiS.” You published a lot of books, you are the winner of numerous awards in Poland, the UK, Israel, Switzerland and the USA; you had countless exhibitions on three continents, all while not hiding your sympathy and support for PiS. Does it mean that you are not a well-known artist?
AB. That’s not the point. I know Adam Zagajewski, we address each other as “you,” and in 1981 when martial law was declared in Poland, we both distributed aid packages to people in need. I respect his creative work, but his opinion is not the voice of all Polish artists and intellectuals. It is true that of all the PIS (Law and Justice Party) is ideologically the closest to me. There are many artists who think like me. Some of the well-known high level artists are – Jarosław Marek Rymkiewicz, one of the most known Polish contemporary writers; actors Jerzy Zelnik, Halina Łabonarska and Catherine Łaniewska; writer Andrew Pilipiuk; film directors Antoni Krauze and Mariusz Pilis; cabaret artist Jan Pietrzak. Many other well recognized names can be recalled as well, therefore Adam Zagajewski’s opinion must be seen as arrogant. At the same time I think that no German artist would have gone to the Polish media to criticize Germany. This is simply wrong.
Sosnowski: Zagajewski was also asked why Poland insists on not accepting refugees from the Middle East. The reasons given for this are thinly veiled accusations of Polish anti-Semitism and Polish provincialism. According to Zagajewski the Polish countryside changed a little, if at all, since the nineteenth century.
Apparently he had not been to the Polish countryside for a very long time. I have a vacation home in a small village in southern Poland, and all utilities are there: running water, electricity, telephone and the internet! The people there can read anything, they are well aware of what is happening in the world, they have automobiles. Apparently this must be the most modern and affluent nineteenth century village in the world… Do you know why most of the German concentration camps after Hitler’s aggression on Poland in 1939 were built in occupied Poland? It was because majority of European Jews lived here. It was not an accident, but a result of centuries-old Polish policy that caused the Jewish people to settle here. When in other countries they had pogroms, Jews in Poland were making careers in administration and on universities. Anti-Semitism was not born in Poland.
The entire interview was published in the monthly publication Wpis:
Categories: Current Issues