Tuesday

19th Feb 2019

Polish mayor's funeral marred by Tusk TV dispute

  • Gdansk memorial to slain mayor (Photo: Dan Vel)

Poland has buried the liberal mayor of Gdansk, Pawel Adamowicz, amid questions as to what extent Polish hate politics contributed to his killing.

The funeral took place at the Bazylika Mariacka in Gdansk on Saturday (19 January) - declared a national day of mourning after he was stabbed to death at a charity gala one week ago.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • PiS-controlled media tried to use the funeral to attack Donald Tusk (Photo: Consilium)

Family and friends aside, it was attended by the president of the EU Council, Donald Tusk, Polish president Andrzej Duda, and Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki, as well as opposition party leaders and former VIPs.

According to Gdansk city council, more than 50,000 people had also come to pay their respects over the past few days, when Adamowicz's body was on show at the European Centre of Solidarity - a museum, which he had created, to Poland's anti-communist movement.

Adamowicz entered politics in the 1980s as an anti-communist protester and had held his Gdansk seat since 1998.

He had been a member of the conservative Civic Platform party from 2001 to 2015, but became more liberal after leaving its ranks, when he began to advocate LGBTI rights.

An outspoken critic of the ruling, right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party, he had been the victim of a vicious hate campaign on PiS-controlled media prior to his murder.

Repeatedly dubbed a "German stooge" ["volksdeutsche"], a "homo-propagator", and a "thief", he had said he "didn't feel safe in public" any more.

"Pawel was killed by hatred," Aleksander Hall, a Polish former anti-communist activist said at the funeral on Saturday.

"That hatred was incited and fuelled by those who discredited him ... mainly the so called 'public media'," he added.

Piotr Adamowicz, the late mayor's brother, recalled that the All Polish Youth, an ultra-nationalist group, had put the deceased's name on a fake death certificate in 2017 due to his "liberalism, multiculturalism and stupidity".

Poland must "stop the hatred, hateful language, contempt and groundless accusations", Ludwik Wisniewski, a Dominican cleric who spoke at the funeral, said.

Focus on Tusk

But the funeral itself became a venue for more of the same despite the fine words.

Wisniewski also said that "a person who builds their political career on lies should not hold a high-level post in our country".

TVP, the PiS-controlled national broadcaster, illustrated the remarks by showing a long shot of Tusk, the former Civic Platform leader, and a PiS adversary.

But for Grzegorz Schetyna, the current Civic Platform head, Wisniewski's comments was really directed at PiS - "for those who caused this whole situation".

Andrzej Krajewski, the former head of the National Broadcasting Council (KRRiT) agreed.

The way TVP framed Tusk was "an absolute failure of journalistic standards", he said.

"There are no ethical boundaries that haven't yet been crossed by PiS-controlled public media", he told EUobserver.

But those accusations were "groundless", Jaroslaw Olechowski, a TV producer responsible for the TVP content, said on Twitter.

The prosecutor's office is still investigating the motives of the killing which took place last Sunday at a charity gala, which had also taken flak in PiS media.

Seconds after the stabbing, the attacker, Stefan W., claimed he did it for political reasons, because he had been "tortured" by Civic Platform.

It later emerged he has a history of mental illness and violent crime, including four armed robberies.

The All Polish Youth group denied any responsibility calling him a "regular criminal" who "had a history of violent assaults and robberies".

The government also responded with a crackdown.

Zbigniew Ziobro, the justice minister, said he would change the penal code to make sure people like Stefan W. did not slip through the net.

Police also arrested 20 people who made online death threats against other mayors or who glorified Adamowicz's killing.

Climate of hate

But the government reaction was closing the stable door after the horse had bolted, Rafal Pankowski, an expert on radicalisation at Collegium Civitas, a university in Warsaw, told this website.

Authorities had declined to prosecute a string of hate crimes in recent years, causing the current climate, he said.

He listed the public burning of the effigy of a jew in 2015, physical assaults on women during a national day march in 2017, and the recent hanging of portraits of liberal MEPs on gallows in the city of Katowice as examples.

"Such passiveness of the state institutions legitimises violence and creates a fertile ground for individuals who may feel attracted to committing such crimes", Pankowski said.

Adamowicz's killing was an "extremist incident", despite his killer's mental health problems, he said.

"These offences are usually committed by individuals who are not necessarily associated with certain radical groups, but who are motivated by their rhetoric," he added.

Recent research indicated that 14 percent of Poles felt that "political violence" was acceptable "it was necessary to achieve important goals", the academic noted, in a worrying trend.

Political impact

The TVP-Tusk controversy indicated that little would change on the Polish political scene despite the Adamowicz tragedy.

But the question remains to what extent the murder would influence the upcoming European elections in May and the Polish parliamentary vote in autumn.

The first polls conducted after the killing by Kantar Millward Brown showed that support for PiS was at 30 percent, its lowest level since it got into power in 2015.

At the same time, support for Civic Platform rose to 25 percent.

But according to a later poll by CBOS on 18 January, PiS and Civic Platform both lost two percent support and PiS remained 17 points ahead.

"It takes more than a week for such a tragic event to shape public opinion," Jaroslaw Flis, a politics teacher at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, told this website.

"It all depends on how this topic will be addressed by the main political figures - whether they will shift or strengthen the existing narratives," he said.

But no matter who wins the upcoming votes, the tragedy was likely to see a greater interest in the political process in the country, he added.

"Most importantly, such dramatic events usually result in the mobilisation of the electorate and a higher turnout," Flis said.

Salvini invokes God and Russia on Poland trip

Orthodox values, opposition to EU institutions, and friendship with Russia should form the backbone of a new Italian-Polish league, Italy's Matteo Salvini has said.

News in Brief

  1. Estonia kicks out Danske Bank over money laundering scandal
  2. May and Juncker meet over Brexit on Wednesday
  3. EU promises to open up advisory groups
  4. EU agrees to limit CO2 emissions by trucks
  5. Juncker under attack in Hungary government ad
  6. EU would not oppose extending Brexit talks, Juncker said
  7. Juncker expects Trump not to impose new car tariffs
  8. Former EU official sentenced for office rape

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  2. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  3. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  5. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  7. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  8. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups

Latest News

  1. College of Europe alumni ask rector to cut Saudi ties
  2. EU says Hungary's anti-Juncker campaign is fake news
  3. Trump right for once: Europe should take back foreign fighters
  4. EU should clarify rules for plant burgers and lab meat
  5. Italian populists could be second biggest force in EU parliament
  6. Merkel defends Russia ties, ridicules Trump on cars
  7. British MPs condemn Facebook CEO's misrule
  8. EU's chance to step up on Hungary and Poland

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  9. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  10. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us