You might remember that PiS came to power thanks to, amongst other things, a secret recording of the private conversations between politicians (see here). Those recordings, as we know today, were doctored and only those inconvenient to the politicians of the previous ruling party have been released. There was suspicion that Russia is involved in it, so the counter-intelligence decided to investigate. Scenes of Sylwester Latkowski, editor of a weekly Wprost that published those transcripts, struggling with two officers trying to drag his laptop away from him were then used by PiS to pump their narration that Donald Tusk’s party is trying to crush the media freedom.
But while, of course, journalists should protect their sources, in that case at least it was a genuine suspicion that the security of the state is compromised – the problem was really in that proper procedures weren’t followed. Apparently, PiS forgot everything they were saying for years about media freedom in the context of Latkowski’s laptop, as last week 5 police officers entered a house of the Gazeta Wyborcza reporter and forcibly requisitioned all his electronic devices, including his work laptop containing materials protected by the journalist-source confidence, despite the fact that they neither had a warrant, or a court ruling ordering the journalist to release confidential materials. And what was the reason for that intrusion? Allegedly someone has sent threats to a local PiS politician using an IP of the router that is shared by that journalist.
The conflict between PiS and the head of the National Audit Office also continues. The parliament rejected the yearly report by that institution – could it be because the Office reports prove that at least 345 000 000 zł had been spent illegally? The biggest scandal relates to the Solidarity fund – the fund under the control of the minister of justice that is supposed to help the crime victims but instead is used by Zbigniew Ziobro as his private treasure chest. 280 000 000 zł from that fund had been spent incorrectly. As we wrote before, some of it is used as financial support of his own party Solidarna Polska, some is in theory spent in line with the Fund’s profile – like, for example, to create a network of the help points for victims of crime – but in fast is used to sponsor church institutions and organization (a list of such examples have been compiled by this Twitter user). Some cases make me unsure if I want to cry or laugh. Somebody, for example, spent 2 500 000 zł on “monitoring hate speech against Catholics”. The final report has about 120 pages and contains, almost entirely, memes found in the three random anti-clerical groups from Polish Facebook. Yes, the ministry spent 2.5 million of taxpayer’s money to basically print an album of memes mocking the church and pope. Actually, on second thought, I would love that job. Imagine, being paid MILLIONS for browsing memes on Facebook… I wanted to check who are the lucky ones, but nobody admits being an author of that work.
The right-wing publicist Rafał Ziemkiewicz also become a popular meme topic last week after it had been banned from entering the UK. Known for his anti-Semitism – in his most recent book he has a whole chapter in which he explains that Polish anti-Semitism is better than other anti-Semitisms, therefore we should be proud of it. (My critique of this work (in Polish) here). He is also known for his criticism of the European Union for that it does not allow its members to decide who has the right to enter the country. Surely he should be happy to learn that Brexit Britain is now fully in control of its borders and if it doesn’t want to let any of the hate preachers in, it can do that. But somehow he does not seem to be rejoicing. The Polish government is also furious and takes radical diplomatic steps. But perhaps it’s good that there is nothing more important happening in British-Polish relations at the moment?
But at least Ziemkiewicz had been treated humanely. Imagine the outrage if he was deemed to be a “weapon in Morawiecki’s hybrid war” and just thrown into the La Manche from the white cliffs of Dover. Because this would be equivalent to what Poland does to those refugees on the Belarusian border.
In the recent days, Poland refused access to a group of doctors who wanted to deliver medical help to the refugees stranded in the forest, arrested foreign journalists who incidentally crossed into the forbidden zone (one of them, seasoned war reporter, said she was never treated with such brutality before) and arrested another journalist outside of that zone for the “crime of following a vehicle of the Border Force” (but she was released after 40 minutes with just an ordinary traffic ticket).
The message is clear: the journalists should not even think about reporting on the Border Guard’s actions. But the new information confirming the inhumane treatment of the refugees by Poland emerges almost every day (as I write those worth I got an information that Belarus published a drastic material suggesting that three Syrian refugees have been badly beaten by the Polish border force after they refused to be pushed back into Belarus). And we all know that the Border Guard do practice an illegal push-back procedure (that means, driving the refugees back into the forest and dumping them there, ensuring that they cross the border back to Belarus first). The force’s spokeswoman interviewed by a Dutch TV station has confirmed that:
Rzeczniczka @Straz_Graniczna oficjalnie przyznaje, że osoby są zawracane na Białoruś i że Polska stosuje nielegalny #PushBack@FundOcalenie@SIP_interwencja@hfhrpl@CzabanPiotr@f_sterczewski@ODFoundation@spacerowiczka1@Tamara10612@ObywateleRP@BydgoszczyW@NocnaZ@Bacon227 pic.twitter.com/8q9au7OvYi
— Piotr #FBPE (@piotr4913) September 21, 2021
Nobody is spared. A group of migrants with children as small as two have been detained in one of the Border Guard stations in Michałów, but then, despite the fact that many children were already to weak to walk, they have been dumped at the border again. The opposition MP demanded an answer and got confirmation of the children (aged 8, 6, 4, and 2) being forcibly removed into the forest. The city council of Michałów also demanded answers from the Border Guard and its representative also confirmed the migrants, including children, are being pushed back to Belarus. He claimed that the kids are cold only because their parents undress them hoping to induce pity in the guards. The Border Guard’s propaganda gets more ridiculous every day. Recently they have published a picture of a watch and a hair clipper claiming that it’s “yet another Belarussian provocation – a mock-up bomb”. Someone ridiculed them by tweeting a picture of a mushroom and captioning it “yet another Belarussian provocation: a mock-up nuclear explosion!”.
The Children Rights Ombudsman was asked why he does nothing, and he said that his hands are tied, as Poland has to push the migrants back because they don’t want to stay in Poland but travel further West (well, I don’t blame them after the treatment they have received) and he does not know anything about push back procedures being practiced. Perhaps if the ombudsman wasn’t obsessed with fetuses so much, he would see more – not only at the border, but also a shameful practice where troubled children are pulled out of their foster families and placed in orphanages to make space in the foster families for the new ones…
Meanwhile, the Amnesty International published a report yet another confirming the point made by many other NGO’s and opposition politicians before: the refugees who camp in Usnarz Górny had been initially located on the Polish side of the border, and those people were illegally pushed back into Belarus by the Polish border force. And, by the way, at the moment of writing the fate of the people imprisoned in that camp for more than a month is unknown – and due to the fact, that journalists are not permitted there, it is unlikely that we’ll get information other than biased press released from either Polish or Belarusian propaganda.
But you know who might be allowed to enter the exclusion zone along the border? Hunters! Because the five people who died in those forests is not enough. If hundreds of tired, hungry people hide from people in uniforms in the woods, what we really need to do is to release an army of amateur killing enthusiasts with rifles, known for the fact that they shoot everything that moves – only recently they killed a cow, a horse, and a teenage boy. What could possibly go wrong?
The government’s actions at the border are met with staunch protests by the big part of the society – in Wrocław, for example, the activists have interrupted a ceremonial opening of the academic year in which prime minister Morawiecki participated – and protests are common all across the country. But the slight majority of Poles supports the government’s actions, including illegal push-backs, so the government felt confident enough to extend the state of emergency in the border area by further 60 days.
That means, the state of emergency will last into Advent – the time of the year when Catholics prepare for the arrival of baby Jesus, the son of God and a child refugee, that had to escape from Palestine to Egypt. I can’t stop to wonder: will any of those exhausted and hungry people die in the frosty forest on the Belarusian border on the night of Christmas Eve, when millions of Poles are going to set a traditional extra place at their table “for a stray wanderer”?
This piece was written for Britské Listy
Picture: stock picture from Pixabay (Public Domain)