How censorship attempt dismantled a Radio Station

Back in the dark, communist times, the Polish band Maanam refused to play on the event organized by the communist party. To punish it, the communist regime banned its songs from the radio. The problem was, that the band was extremely popular and its songs, such as To Tylko Tango were at the top places in the charts. Marek Niedźwiecki, a young radio presenter at Polish Radio 3, popular “Trójka”, was put in a difficult situation. He decided that he will continue to include the banned song in the charts even despite the fact that they are banned: instead of broadcasting the song, he replaced it with a sample of its characteristic opening drumroll.

Nearly 40 years later Marek Niedźwiecki was still running Trójka’s chart list. Today, Poland is ruled by Prawo i Sprawiedliwość and the new song by Kazik takes the chart lists by storm, debuting in the first place. Kazik is Polands one of the most popular artists, known for his lyrics in which he often comments on the current political and social affairs. His song might not be ground-breaking – neither the music nor the lyrics are of any exceptional quality – but apparently, as he often did in the past, he touched strong feelings of the nation. Because his song, although not mentioning Jarosław Kaczyński’s name ex plicite, is clearly about him, being inspired by the recent events when the leader of the PiS blatantly ignored COVID-19 regulations and visited graves (see more here):

Closed cemeteries – it’s because of the events
of recent weeks, recent events
I look at the chains and wipe my tears
just like you do
just like you do

The gate is opening, I can’t believe my eyes
are the things to turn our different?
I run towards them, your thugs s
because your pain is better than mine
your pain is better than mine

You are the only allowed to soothe the pain
everyone else has to suffer
two limos or one, all cemetery yours
better than mine

On the streets and in the flats
spirit of love emerges
two limos or one, all cemetery yours
bigger than mine

Four years ago, on the 10th of April
Maria’s daughter ran just under the wheels

Maria won’t be able to cross that gate today
Because your pain is better than hers
Your pain is better than hers

Józef had a father, a wife and a son
And on that day the time stopped for them
Józef won’t be able to remember that day today
Your pain is better than his
Your pain is better than his

Only you can soothe your pain…

To be frank I don’t like cemeteries
I go with my mother when she asks me to do so
I place a wraith of flowers on my father’s grave
Your pain is better than mine
Your pain is better than mine

What a beautiful day is gifted to us all today
To remember all those taken away from us
They stand on the other side and are in tears

Just like you are…

Just after the program was broadcasted, it had disappeared from the Radio’s website (or rather, the site was manually edited to redirect the user to an error message). All social media posts related to this program have also been removed. A statement by the director and editor-in-chief of the station was published in which he claims that the rules have been broken to introduce a song from outside the list, and the vote count has been manipulated, therefore the station rules the vote void and the 1998th charts listing is to be considered as if it never took place. The thing is, in the author’s chart lists ran by Marek Niedźwiecki the fans are only allowed to vote for the songs from the list prepared by him and Kazik’s song was there (his publisher encouraged to vote for him with the screen from Trójka’s website). Niedźwiecki himself validated the results of the vote by playing Kazik’s song as the winner of the week.

According to the wife of one of the other Trójka journalists, her husband was asked to sign the letter confirming that the voting that brought Kazik to the first place in the charts has been rigged, and, on refusal, he was suspended. She is really shocked by this, and that means something because she is originally from Iran!

As a result, Marek Niedźwiecki decided to quit his job at Trójka, swiftly followed by Hieronim Wrona and Marcin Kydryński, some of the few radio personalities that remained at Trójka after it has been taken over by PiS (most of the Trójka’s legends have left already with the departure of Wojciech Mann being the most recent).

Many musicians also expressed their solidarity: artists such as Dawid Podsiadło or Organek ask for Trójka to refrain from playing his songs. Also, the publishing house Mystic Production has halted their cooperation with the station, which means that Trójka won’t be able to play songs by the artists associated with them, which, along with some of the most popular Polish artists, means that listeners won’t hear hits by Deep Purple, Nick Cave or Marillion…

Even the top PiS politicians reacted to the scandal. Minister of culture defended artists’ right to “sing stupid things”, but distanced himself to the station’s actions. The departure of Niedźwiecki was welcomed by one of the government ministers as “good riddance” – he pointed out, that Niedźwiecki was cooperating with the communist regime (this has been also the line of argumentation of Jarosław Kaczyński’s right hand). If true, it says a lot – Niedźwiecki was working with communisms, but can’t stand PiS… 

Some say that the newest affair with Trójka brings us back to communist times. But under the communist rule, despite some attempts of censorship, Trójka was a bastion of freedom and a musical window to the Westit was back then when it achieved its cult status and faithful followers that were its biggest strength until PiS took Public Media over. I believe it is also worth to mention, that censorship attempts under communist rule were part of smart government policy, today’s PiS functionaries seem to be constantly tripping over their own legs… But this is the moment to remember: if they vote for the most popular song can be rendered void because it is not to the liking of PiS, what will happen if the outcome of the presidential election will also not come up to Jarosław Kaczyński’s liking?

P.S: Ironically, in a recent interview Kazik refused to side with the opposition, saying that the fears that Poland is turning into a totalitarian regime are “greatly exaggerated”. I wonder if he changed his mind yet?

This piece was written for Britské Listy
Illustration: yotube screenshot



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