Poles target foreign press in bid to polish image after far-right march
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Poles target foreign press in bid to polish image after far-right march

New initiative will allow volunteers to report cases of Poland being 'slandered' by media accounts of nationalist activities

Demonstrators burn flares and wave Polish flags during the annual march to commemorate Poland's National Independence Day in Warsaw on November 11, 2017. (AFP/Janke )
Demonstrators burn flares and wave Polish flags during the annual march to commemorate Poland's National Independence Day in Warsaw on November 11, 2017. (AFP/Janke )

WARSAW, Poland — A Polish non-governmental organization backed by the foreign ministry has launched a website that will enable people to report suspected slander against Poland in the foreign press.

“We should react to what is said and written about us. Especially if media outlets resort to information that is manipulated or inaccurate,” said Mira Wszelaka, president of the Polish League Against Defamation (RDI) that launched the Rycerz (Knight) initiative this week.

“The reports by Western media on the subject of the Independence Day march show that this kind of initiative is necessary,” she added on the RDI website.

Organized by far-right nationalists to mark Poland’s independence day on November 11, this year’s march featured people chanting xenophobic slogans but also Poles who simply wanted to mark the national holiday.

The right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) government has since expressed anger over the portrayal of the nationalist march as “fascist” by certain media outlets abroad.

The initiative will have both permanent correspondents and volunteers, who will log on to the system and “report information about likely slander, give the country and language, record the incident and the type of slanderous media and add attachments confirming the slander,” Wszelaka said.

The media outlets or individuals behind the suspected slander will then be notified and asked to correct the information.

This July 29, 2016, file photo shows the main gate of the former German Nazi death camp of Auschwitz, Poland. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
This July 29, 2016, file photo shows the main gate of the former German Nazi death camp of Auschwitz, Poland. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

For many years now, Polish officials have routinely requested corrections when global media or politicians describe as “Polish” former death camps like Auschwitz set up by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland.

Even if used as a geographical indicator, Warsaw says the term can give the impression that Poland bore responsibility for the Holocaust, whereas it says it was one of the chief victims of the slaughter.

Poland was attacked and occupied by Nazi Germany in World War II, losing six million of its citizens, including three million Jews in the Holocaust.

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