Radio Maryja as the target of the media
Fr Ireneusz Skubis
We are in a special situation again: we are waiting for the first pilgrimage of the Holy Father Benedict XVI to our homeland, the government coalition is being formed and the election of local authorities is approaching. Therefore, I am surprised that almost all media in Poland, radio and television stations as well as the biggest newspapers, have launched a frontal attack against the Torun radio. Radio Maryja and Trwam TV have withstood these attacks in a rather reserved way.
For some time the Church has regarded the problem of Radio Maryja as a key issue to be solved. The Polish Bishops' Conference even appointed a special pastoral team to take care for Radio Maryja. Thus it may be worth trying to present an objective attitude towards the smear campaign against Radio Maryja, which the media have continually waged. I am going to justify my involvement in this matter by he fact that when we tried to send something in defence of Radio Maryja to several discussion forums our opinion was rejected. So the situation is a specific one. Radio Maryja was not given a choice and could not defend itself. Naturally, we are said to be living in a democratic country and we can present our views anywhere we want and about anything we want. Censorship is said not to exist. And in fact, the government censorship does not formally exist. We observe how many journalists or democratic institutions reject any censorship. Even when the media hurt people and tell lies, the defenders of democracy let them harm and lie but their right to freedom of speech must not be denied.
As a matter of fact the Radio has adopted a rather risky formula as far as the programme 'Unfinished Conversations' is concerned. Every person, even some insane, can phone the programme and express his/her opinion on the air. Many a time I heard the radio speakers, the Redemptorist priests, reply or 'make miracles' when they hear opinions they do not agree with and they do not want to be impolite, respecting the sincere intentions of the listeners.
The freedom of speech in Radio Maryja is rather dangerous but it is an expression of the most complete form of democracy. For we know how many media explicitly use censorship trying to stop the people who want to present their opinions in the media.
Taking this as a starting point I would like to discuss the issue again, the issue which is very urgent in our homeland. The bishops, priests and people are talking about it. Apart from several other questions we should ask the rhetorical one: Who does not listen to Radio Maryja in Poland? How would we feel if Radio Maryja stopped its activity? Who would answer so many questions that the Catholic society in Poland pose? We should also ask questions concerning political, social and cultural matters in Poland. Let me refer to the example of various feature programmes, I mean, debates, carried out by excellent journalists but which leave a lot to be desired. First of all they are full of noise, chaos or argument and the invited guests cannot finish their answers to the questions. We can see that the journalists are biased. The hosts of the programmes often openly present their options, supporting one party and so they are partial although they try to maintain an appearance of objectivity. But anyone who observes the discussion knows very well the opinions and preferences of the presenters.
Therefore, I eagerly listen to Radio Maryja, including the programme with politicians. In my opinion when the politicians speak calmly, without noise, they only inform and present current matters and if they are the members of the ruling party Law and Justice they present the views and projects of the government, they explain many issues concerning public administration. Recently many problems have emerged. We remember the hard work of the commissions to investigate certain affairs but at the same time we saw the disgraceful actions in the country; we realised how many there were common crimes, offences, how many figures of public life, often people of high standing, got entangled in dirty things. It was only the hearings that were objective and allowed us to get to know the truth. Here the television live broadcast was similar to the programmes of Radio Maryja.
I would like to deal with another issue. Is the image of our country and our media objective enough? I remember the times of the marshal law in Poland. During one of his visits the Holy Father decided, 'I will speak to you and for you'. He knew that there was no freedom of speech and that's why he decided to speak for us. The nation had no possibility to speak openly because people were imprisoned for expressing their views. I also remember people waiting for the message of Jasna Gora and the message of the Primate, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski. He used to deliver a message on feasts, especially on 3rd May as well as on 15th and 26th August. He spoke at 11.00 a.m. on those days. Jasna Gora was the pulpit of the Primate of Poland. He spoke very meaningful words about the communists' policy concerning the nation that the Primate had always supported. The communists hated him and at the same time they were afraid of the words of the great moral authority, referring to concrete social and political issues. And if the Church in Poland could defend the status of the nation it was because of that brave man of God who dared to reveal the truth. As a matter of fact, the Primate was not the only person who spoke openly about national issues. I would like to mention the late Archbishop Ignacy Tokarczuk or the late Bishop Franciszek Musiel of Czestochowa. Naturally, Karol Wojtyla, Bishop of Krakow, should be included among those who displayed remarkable courage in their messages concerning the very important matter of freedom for the Polish people.
Thus we have numerous facts that testify that Polish people eagerly wait for the messages of the Polish bishops and the church authorities. We do realise that we are living in a free country but at the same time we can see that our situation is greatly limited as far as the freedom of objectivity of the media is concerned. We wonder whether there are many possibilities to defend Christian opinions. Apart from the example concerning the web forums, which I have already mentioned, another issue is the recently much publicised 'discovery' of the Gospel of Judas. The media caused that the four fundamental Christian Gospels were almost invalidated. Those poorly educated Polish journalists do not know that the issue is old and cannot be discussed using the category of the apocrypha. It was in 1974 that Tadeusz Zychiewicz discussed that issue in 'Tygodnik Powszechny'. The new publication in 'Gazeta Wyborcza' seemed to aim at undermining Christianity and its foundations. The premiere of the film 'The da Vinci Code' is approaching, which can also be an occasion to attack Christianity. This picture will be an attack against faith of the less educated people. The media that attack Radio Maryja today will soon wage another battle against Christianity, the Church, on the basis of the film that is full of falsification.
Thus another question, which is not groundless, arises: If Radio Maryja did not exist, if the were no Catholic media, who could defend Christian values? Presenting the options of the parties, which are Christian, is important to Polish Catholics, who voted for the representatives of these parties and gave them power. It is the ruling party that can guarantee among other things that religious instruction is not expelled from schools as it happened in Spain.
'Sedes Apostolica manum apposuit' - The Apostolic See laid the hand - It is a very important canonical principle when the Apostolic See decides to deal with some question. It has just happened. The Nuncio's letter is certainly the best signal that the issue will be properly settled.