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New anti-defamation law ‘does not inhibit free speech’: Polish foreign ministry

PR dla Zagranicy
Grzegorz Siwicki 01.02.2018 15:25
A new Polish anti-defamation law “does not inhibit free speech,” the foreign ministry in Warsaw said on Thursday.
Poland's foreign ministry. Photo: wikimedia commons/Adrian GrycukPoland's foreign ministry. Photo: wikimedia commons/Adrian Grycuk

Nor does the law, which has been passed the country’s parliament and is awaiting the president’s signature, inhibit the “freedom of research and scholarship, or freedom of... debate [on history] or artistic activity,” the ministry said in a statement.

It issued the statement in response to remarks by the US Department of State concerning the new Polish legislation, which aims to outlaw any public allegations that Poland as a nation was complicit in Nazi German crimes during World War II.

The US State Department said on Wednesday: “We encourage Poland to reevaluate the legislation in light of its potential impact on the principle of free speech and on our ability to be effective partners.”

In a statement posted on its website, the State Department added it was concerned about the repercussions the draft legislation, if enacted in Warsaw, “could have on Poland’s strategic interests and relationships,” including those with the United States and Israel.

The Polish foreign ministry said in Thursday’s statement that “the legislation’s main aim is to fight all forms of denying and distorting the truth about the Holocaust as well as belittling the responsibility of its actual perpetrators.”

In this context, the ministry said, “we hold the view that accusing - publicly and despite facts to the contrary - the Polish Nation and the Polish State of complicity with the German Third Reich in Nazi crimes is inaccurate, misleading, and hurtful to the victims who are Polish citizens of both Jewish and Polish descent.”

The ministry also said it believed that “despite differences of opinion on the draft legislation … the current legislative work under way in Poland to develop legal solutions that would protect historical truth will not affect Poland’s strategic partnership with the Unites States.”

Strained relations with Israel

The new Polish regulations, which would introduce penalties for anyone who publicly ascribes blame to the Polish nation or state for crimes committed by Nazi Germany, have provoked tensions with Israel.

Israel's Ambassador to Poland Anna Azari has said that, in Israel, the legislation is "seen as creating a possibility of punishment for Holocaust survivors' testimony."

In Poland, the planned new law is seen as a way of fighting the use of the phrase “Polish death camps”, which implies Poland's involvement in the Holocaust.

Polish government spokeswoman Joanna Kopcińska has said: “It was the Germans who attacked Poland, while the Poles and Jews were the victims”.

'No Polish death camps'

“There were no Polish death camps, no Polish concentration camps or Polish extermination camps. We must set the record straight by continually explaining and clarifying things,” she added.

Public broadcaster Polish Radio has launched a special educational website aimed at debunking misconceptions about Poland’s role in the Holocaust, at GermanDeathCamps.info.

The Polish and Israeli prime ministers have agreed their countries would hold dialogue despite tensions.


Source: IAR, msz.gov.pl

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