A DEFIANT FREE SPEECH
– Today is a strange Day – solemn – non-solemn, each of us experiences two kinds of feelings: 25 years ago most of us were happy that communism would end and today, listening to president Komorowski who allegedly spoke somehow correctly, did not feel like giving an applause – said the chief of the Association of Polish Journalists Krzysztof Skowronski at a meeting organized by ‘The ones in solidarity 2010’ and the Club Ronin
On 4 June 2014 there were many joyful and festive meetings, but the one devoted to the freedom of speech in free Poland was rather sad, although without any strong glimpse of hope.
A lot of concern was felt in a discussion about more and more urgent need and about difficulties of building really independent and free media. And it was not a meeting of bitter-mood people, because not honoured with presidential distinctions on the occasion of the day of freedom ‘for prominent achievements for freedom of speech in Poland’, ‘for contribution in development of free media and independent journalism’, like, for example, pride of the public Polish television Tomasz Lis, like Jaroslaw Gugala from Polsat and from TVN a director of the program Edward Miszczak and the whole group of journalists from ‘Gazeta Wyborcza’. In a justification to the given Officers’ Crosses of the Order of Poland Renewal it was also added that it was ‘for prominent merits in building independent press in Poland, for cultivating values which were lying at the bases of Polish democratic transformations, for contribution in development of the modern journalism and following high standards in journalistic, editorial and managerial work.
The president also honoured those who fought for the freedom of speech 25 years ago and he even invited some of them to the common unveiling the Memorial of the Free Speech outside the building of the former censorship in Mysia street in Warsaw. In front of the new monument president Komorowski was proud to remind that only in Poland there was an underground publishing movement on such a massive scale: ‘Here there were hundreds or maybe more underground printing houses, here there were many various printing methods, methods of fight for the freedom of speech’.
The problem is that in 1989 the fight for the freedom of speech in Poland did not end at all. And the necessity of its continuation last century was perceived not only by this small group of people to whom only righteous, self-proclaimed depositaries of free speech stuck a label of the fanatics, but in the recent years also millions of masses of the Polish society protesting in defence of the Television Trwam.
A short life of the free speech
The freedom of speech after 1989 and free media are rightly presented as one of valuable trophies of the Round Table. Media appearing in the Third Polish Republic – both the new ones and the ones transformed from the communist ones – created the main trend subordinated indeed to one disposer: overwhelming force of political elites developed from the ground of solidarity and communist agreements, excluding the will of the nation, expressed very clearly in the elections of 1989. Only that the nation did not rebel later when it was getting tens of tabloids, and, first of all, the one which became prevailing on the market of serious journals, that is, ‘Wyborcza Gazeta’, and which till today has - although the least one – impact on creating ‘desired’ attitudes of citizens. 25 years ago nearly everybody thought that it would be a newspaper of freedom, solidarity, all anti-communist groups.
The process of blocking the free speech was consistently realized from the beginning of the 90s. The media market was created by one political group and with the support of the foreign capital. An extremely tasty morsel both for politicians and the big business were television and radio concessions, which were granted to the selected ones. – In the beginning of the 90s – says Maciej Pawlicki , a participant of many media ventures in the last 25 years – indeed many of us were not aware of the importance of the moment and the speeding train had already gone into a different direction. Later there were other actions of the process assumed in advance, concerning creating media market.
These actions were based on a brutal stifling the competitiveness on the media market – both the business, political and world-view ones. If in the name of pretended pluralism or thanks to a coincidence (because in the National Broadcasting Council the ‘incorrect ones’ were prevailing) a concession was granted, not matching the main stream, its fate was prejudged anyway – it was stifled quickly or taken over with hostility (like, for example, the Television Niepokalanow) or simply purchased by tycoons, that is, Polsat and TVN. This concentration on the television market – Pawlicki notes – let us know about itself during the distribution of concessions on the digital platform. Only thanks to engagement of millions of people, it was hardly possible to grab scandalously the delayed concession for the Television Trwam, whereas the two mentioned companies dependent on them were easily realizing a whole long list of their orders. Everyone who in the last years was lucky to work in media slightly diverging from their main stream, can describe various mechanisms and operations – not only the ones from outside, but also the centrifugal ones – used in order to annihilate or render them harmless at least. An excellent illustration here is a short history of the journal ‘Life’ run by the editor Tomasz Wolek, who at present supports the mainstream media with his authority….And we must say that readers of ‘Life’ appreciated his distinctness from ‘Gazeta Wyborcza’, expressed in quite an agreed way as ‘right wing’. ‘Life’ showed, however, that there is great demand in the society for real political and worldview pluralism. And despite that, the life of ‘Life’ was poor and short.
Groups which took over the authority after 4 June 1989, were very determined to have their voice as the only free voice. From the beginning competitive differentiations were consistently destroyed, with carrying out campaigns of slanders with high skill. In some cases leftist-laic authorities anointed on 4 June, were personally setting off to the West, in order to report to the chiefs of media over-international companies about ideological deviations, which are committed by editors in their Polish companies. Unfortunately, at the same time conservative and rightist politicians generally trivialized media – if not saying about their willingness in showing themselves in them – they did not support these projects properly which could really pluralize the media market in Poland. As if they neglected the situation, forgot that the modern mass media could play a key role in realizing their political message, that they could help or hinder in maintaining freedom, identity and surviving of the nation.
So, liberal-leftist media – supported by post-communist and foreign capital – took over nearly the whole Polish market and the government of souls quite easily and according to their mission they joined in leading the so-called hybrid war which is based on destabilization of the society, minimizing the sense of the national community and the ordinary methodic stupefying people, so that they could become uncritical consumers of everything which would be offered to them.
In countries of western democracy, this kind of process started in the 30 of the last century, and later it was going on in a permanent pace. In Poland we have been dealing with this phenomenon since the time of breakthrough, that is, since 4 June 1989. When the freedom of speech was possessed by this one worldview and political option, there were actions of making up ‘civilization backwardness’. Thanks to the effectively and quickly developed tools of the mass media it was possible to persuade recipients effectively that the others were not right, that they were stupid, old-fashioned or that they were simply talking nonsense.
It was extremely easy to make Poles believe that it did not make sense to participate in politics, because it was even a disgusting job, not an action for the common welfare, that there are not honest politicians, and especially those from the rightist wing are stupid and dishonest. It seems that Poles were quite naive to believe – as they thought – those free media. In any case they decided to be as far as possible from the dirty politics and they became engaged with grilling, watching ‘talk shows’ and football matches…. So, the skillfully pursued hybrid war – through lies, mockery, discrediting the style of the public debate – led to discouragement of a big part of the Polish society to participate in the public life.
Weaknesses of freedom
With passing years from the moment of regaining independence by Poland, newer firewalls were being built in order to block the development of media different than those decreed 25 years ago, just the leftist-liberal mainly. – A system was created which was based on a financial blockage and punishing the defiant - says Ewa Stankiewicz, a journalist and film director – which does not allow us to go through a kind of a level, beyond which we would become a danger for mainstream, as people could hear us, form their views on their own and not succumb to mainstream media which tell lies coherently, keep silent about some facts, make words lose sense. And when words lose sense, people lose freedom…
The main support of the system blocking freedom of speech in the Third Polish Republic are not vetted judicial system (brave journalists are treated by many judges incomprehensibly sternly) and the law putting a muzzled on journalists (art. 212 KK and art. 448 KC). For fear of private bankruptcy – for breaching someone’s personal good, the court can adjudge redress and it estimates its amount, there are also very high costs of apology in nationwide media - or only in order to maintain the job of journalism journalists use auto-censorship. It can be said that at the end of the times of the People’s Polish Republic there were braver ones because somebody who had more censorship interferences in his account, in his professional environment he was considered as a hero. At present such heroism has much more rational price, requires more courage or desperation because in the name of honesty and freedom of speech one can lose his life achievements.
The fact how the freedom of speech is converted into money today is proven by a very developed market of advertisements in Poland which is a kind of a closed circle, a vicious circle pouring golden rain only on the mainstream media.
Even if some media – that is, the rightist-conservative ones -according to advertisement-making criteria becomes suitably professional or gains a required number of viewers, it cannot hope for benignity of advertisement –makers who use contemptuous stereotype that the rightist part speaks only to old people, who are from provinces and who are badly educated, so it diverges from advertisements. In addition, there are worldview resentment and political interests of merchants of advertisement, especially very generous advertisement-makers dependent on the current authority (state companies, administrative organs). Therefore, for example, the Television Republika, despite attractiveness of a viewer – as it turns out that rightist viewers are young, intelligent and even come from big cities – cannot beat this vicious outer political-advertisement circle.
Despite system blockages and difficulties, defiant media are entering the market more boldly and without any hesitation. Radio Wnet has existed for 5 years now and can be heard not only online, Radio Jutrzenka still broadcasts its programs, there also appeared Niepoprawne Radio PL, one can hear Radio Warszawa which cooperates with many local radio stations. A new journal “Gazeta Polska Codziennie’ is published, there was ‘Uwazam Rze’ which somehow, on the occasion of above-mentioned mechanisms, developed into two magazines – ‘Do Rzeczy’ and ‘wSieci’ with valuable historic additions…..On Internet we have many portals about freedom. There are Catholic media. ‘Nasz Dziennik’ and the Catholic Weekly ‘Niedziela’ are becoming more and more popular among readers. And Television Trwam can finally compete with other big stations and is already hindering the peace of mainstream.
A possibility of preventing media from fights for the common welfare and freedom of speech theoretically – and paradoxically – is just because there are stupidity, hypocrisy and theft around, as well as incompetence which go beyond their critical mass. Not long time ago did one of the journalists of ‘Gazeta Wyborcza’ admit that if we have been stupefying people for such a long time, now we have its results….
How to cope with evil? The duty of all honest and thinking people is building alliances around particular issues. Only in this way can defiant media with free speech appear. Surely, in Poland, because of the lack of other possibilities – mainly because of the lack of big native capital willing to invest in media different than the leftist-laic ones – there is a need of creating social, cooperative media. It is a difficult task and those who undertake it are real heroes and strongmen. However, they do not get rewards. Maybe one day…..
If we do not manage to do something now till the nearest elections – there was concern about it on the day of freedom – this unsuccessful system after the year 2015 will be closed. Other several millions of Poles will emigrate from the country and at the Vistula ordinary people will stay who are not allowed to think.