Tuesday

22nd May 2018

Polish Nazi-jibe MEP 'spams' EU inboxes

  • Czarnecki: 'Every euro-deputy got at least 1,600 emails' (Photo: pis.org)

MEPs and Brussels-based journalists have been "spammed" by letters of support for Polish MEP Ryszard Czarnecki following calls for his dismissal.

"It is obvious to everyone that these actions are a form of new sanctions against Poland," one letter, signed under the name Beata Perchal and emailed from a Polish news portal called Virtualna Polska, said on Tuesday (16 January).

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  • Pro-free press activist at anti-PiS rally in Warsaw in 2016 (Photo: Reuters/Kacper Pempel)

The same text was also sent in German under the name Stefan Grzywacz and from other gmail addresses.

The letters praised Czarnecki's ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party in Poland for its controversial reform of the Polish judiciary and for its economic triumphs.

They attacked a Polish opposition MEP, Roza Thun, for her "scandalous" criticism of PiS in German media and accused the EU of trying to sway member states by "the rule of the strongest, that excludes peoples and nations".

Another letter from the Polish American Congress of Eastern Massachusetts, an expat group in the US, repeated some of the talking points word for word.

"It is obvious to everyone that these actions are a form of new sanctions against Poland," it said, adding that the EU was trying to rule Poland by "diktat".

The main groups in the European Parliament have called for Czarnecki to be fired from his vice-president post after he called Thun by a Polish name for a Nazi collaborator.

The dispute comes amid a European Commission sanctions procedure against Warsaw on grounds that PiS has seized control of the country's courts and judges in breach of EU rules.

The letters cited above were part of a much bigger pro-Czarnecki campaign that also included mass-scale tweets, some of which appeared to come from automated accounts.

Czarnecki himself said on Polish radio from Strasbourg on Wednesday that "every euro-deputy got at least 1,600 emails with support for me, so it was an action on a huge scale".

"There were more mails in my defence than in the case of Acta, so that's quite an impressive result," he said, referring to a defunct "Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement".

Spam

The pro-Czarnecki action backfired in some EU quarters, however.

"The spam we all received … is by no means acceptable and - allow me to say - quite counterproductive," Danish liberal MEP Jens Rohde said in reply.

"It would be a good idea to send out an email with an apology to members and staff, who are wasting a lot of time because of your campaign," Rohde told Czarnecki.

A Polish journalist, Gabrielle Hubler, wrote back to the pro-Czarnecki mailing list saying: "Do stop sending me your propaganda emails".

PiS has also taken control of Polish state media and has previously faced accusations of using Russian-style fake news and internet trolling tactics.

TVP 1, the Polish state broadcaster, reported on Tuesday that the "independent" pro-Czarnecki campaign, which it called a "success", had sent four times as many emails as the anti-Acta one.

Partly free

Freedom House, a leading US NGO, described Polish media as being "partly free" in a report this week.

PiS support has surged to a high of 43 percent inside Poland amid its EU confrontation, which also includes a row on migrant quotas, January polls said.

But Poland has lost friends on the EU stage, with Sebastian Kurz, the new Austrian chancellor, saying in FAZ, a German newspaper, on Wednesday that he endorsed the commission's actions despite PiS having angled for his help.

"No matter which member state is concerned, it always merits a close look if democracy and rule of law are under threat, or if there's a perception of such a threat," Kurz said.

"If need be, we'll support the commission," he said.

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