Monday, April 19, 2004

Poland: The Case of the Stolen Gay Files
Neo-Nazi hacker suspected.
By Tomek Kitlinski

Complete Coverage
Gay Mundo

Related Articles
Hope for Love in Poland?
Poland's Female Trouble
HIV Erupts in Russia: An epidemic with a young face
HIV Erupts in Russia: Putin's Silence
Last Human Rights Frontier: Sexual Orientation
At UN, queer human rights genie is out
The Other Siberia: Gay Russia Under Church and State
Interview: Young [Queer] Russia

WARSAW. APRIL 19, 2004. On the night of February 15, a hacker broke into an e-mail account of Poland's leading gay organization, Campaign Against Homophobia. The hacker made off with the treasurer's entire membership list, which was instantly posted in two of the country's most popular commercial websites. Names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses of members were spiked with comments such as "pedophile" and "drug addict".

Within hours, the group's activists and supporters were emailed a barrage of hate messages. "You are deviants, alcoholics, drug addicts, carriers of sexually-transmitted diseases, and you spread AIDS," they said.

The Gdansk-based Baltic Daily, which broke the story on February 19, identified the hacker as "probably a sympathizer of a radical right-wing party, the National Revival of Poland." When he posted the Campaign's membership list, the hacker attached the NRP's "Ban the Fags" logo. According to the Roth Institute, Tel Aviv University, which tracks anti-Semitic groups, the NRP is a "predominantly neo-Nazi skinhead organization" mostly known "for its promotion of Holocaust denial."

In an official statement published on its website, the NRP denied having "committed the computer burglary." However, elsewhere on the same site, the NRP promised that "the actions in the "Ban the Fags" series will continue." It did not specify what those actions might be.

The Campaign Against Homophobia reported the hacking to the police the following morning, and eventually managed to get the lists removed from the two websites. An investigation by the Warsaw prosecutor's office has since yielded no results.

Homophobia backlash
The Campaign's Gdansk coordinator, Artur Czerwinski, was the first to notice the hate posting. "I was afraid. I was very apprehensive. What's going to happen? What should we do? Should we provide security for the people listed? It was a big challenge," he told The Gully. Czerwinski, who is one of the Campaign most visible spokespeople, sees the incident as part of a rising wave of homophobia in Poland. "In this country, the people on the list can easily be slandered," he said.

Robert Biedron, 28, the Campaign's charismatic founder and president concurs. "I regularly receive threats. In one anonymous letter I was called the President of All Deviants, who should have a stone hung around his neck and drowned. But the theft of the membership list made things even more serious," he said.

Biedron added that a week after the hacker posted the Campaign treasurer's list, the treasurer's "neighbors found copies of a 2003 TV interview transcript in their mailboxes, where he said he was gay." The Campaign's treasurer, who lives in Warsaw refused to be interviewed for this article and asked to remain unnamed.

The theft happened as Poland was in the grips of an anti-pedophilia frenzy, largely fueled by the country's main newspaper, Gazeta Wyborcza. Queers and people living with HIV/AIDS were systematically lumped together with pedophiles in the public mind, and pedophilia strictly equated with "boy molesting" (girls need not apply). The mass hysteria was triggered by sensationalist coverage of the indictment of Wojciech Krolopp, the long-time conductor of the prestigious Poznan Boys Choir, who had been charged with "sexually abusing" three of his young singers.

Founded in 2001, the Campaign Against Homophobia organized last year's controversial billboard project "Let Us Be Seen," which showed photos of queer couples holding hands, and the "I'm Gay. I'm Lesbian. Meet Us" forums at Polish universities. It is currently working for the same-sex civil union bill introduced in the Polish Senate by Senator Maria Szyszkowska.

In 2002, the group helped compile a "Report on Public Figures and Institutions Discriminating Against Sexual Minorities in Poland" which aimed "to show that in our country human and civil rights are not respected." It will soon publish "Homophobia in Polish," a collection of essays by queer activists, scholars, and feminists, including the writer of this piece. The Campaign's activities have generated intense controversy in a country were queers had been largely invisible. The case of the stolen files is both proof of the Campaign's effectiveness, and of the perils that lie ahead of it.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Polish border guards arrested for corruption


Polish police said on Wednesday they had arrested 23 border guards on the eastern frontier with Ukraine on suspicion of corruption.
Local border police spokesman Henryk Majchrzak was quoted by the PAP news agency as saying the arrests, which had been planned for some time, had been based on solid evidence gathered against the border guards working at Korczowa by police.
"We studied the routines of these people and laid police traps," he added.
The Polish-Ukrainian border is a key thoroughfare for illegal immigrants from Asia and the Middle East, and also a crossing point for smuggled goods.
p> After Poland joins the European Union on May 1, its eastern border will become the bloc's external frontier.
However, checks will continue at the Polish-German border for several years as Poland will not enter the EU's border-free Schengen area until 2007 at the earliest.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Polish Firebrand Praises
Hitler's Early Policies
By Katarzyna Mala

WARSAW (Reuters) - Polish firebrand Andrzej Lepper, whose nationalist Self-Defence party tops popularity rankings, has been quoted as saying he believes Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler's early policies were good.

"At the beginning of his activities, Hitler had a really good programme," Lepper told the Zycie Warszawy newspaper. "I don't know what happened to him later...who had such influence over him that he moved towards genocide."

Lepper's growing popularity is part of a wider backlash in future European Union members from central Europe against years of tough market reforms and government sleaze.

His nationalist, anti-establishment views also fit into a wider phenomenon of support for far-right politicians in western Europe such as Austria's Joerg Haider or France's Jean-Marie Le Pen, both of whom scored electoral successes in the last decade.

Haider also once praised Hitler's "enviable" record in job creation.

Lepper's remarks are bound to stir controversy in Poland, a country which Nazi Germany invaded in 1939, unleashing World War Two. Five million Polish citizens, including over three million Jews, were killed by the Nazis.

Asked to confirm the remarks, Lepper said the newspaper had manipulated his comments. "All I said concerning Hitler is that, yes, he eliminated unemployment," Lepper told Reuters on Wednesday. "Hitler was the biggest criminal and murderer in history."

The newspaper played a tape recording of the interview to Reuters including the quoted remarks.


Surveys show one in three Poles could vote for Lepper in the next parliamentary elections, which are due next year but could be brought forward as the current leftist coalition struggles to reconstruct its government.

Unpopular Prime Minister Leszek Miller will step down on May 2, a day after Poland joins the EU. His designated successor Marek Belka has yet to assemble a parliamentary majority.

Some Polish commentators have drawn parallels between Hitler's tactics on his way to power and Lepper's.

Like Hitler, who scorned Germany's feeble Weimar Republic, Lepper uses fiery rhetoric to attack the mainstream parties and the shortcomings of Poland's young democracy.

He opposes Poland's EU membership, wants more state intervention in the economy and advocates strong presidential powers such as those enjoyed by Russia's Vladimir Putin.

His popularity is fuelled by promises to slash the country's high unemployment, running at about 20 percent, by launching wide-scale public works.

Hitler launched huge infrastructure projects including building Germany's autobahn network and the armaments industry after he seized power in 1933.

Copyright © 2004 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Poland: Commission Issues Report on Rywin Scandal

by Wojciech Kosc
13 April 2004

The commission charged with investigating producer Lew Rywin's 'secret' proposition to Adam Michnik reaches a conclusion on the scandal, but the final report has some members crying foul.

POZNAN, Poland--For several months, millions of Poles have been paying close attention to live broadcasts of the meetings of the commission investigating the so-called Rywin scandal, a controversy that has captivated the country and led Prime Minister Leszek Miller to announce that he will resign in May.

But by the commission's final meeting, on 5 April, the viewing audience had shrunk considerably, and as a result, only a few people saw what may have been the most tumultuous meeting in 14 months, with a surprise ending that bitterly angered several members of the commission.

Since January 2003, the commission has been looking into a meeting that took place on 22 July 2002 between film producer Lew Rywin and Adam Michnik, the editor in chief of Poland's leading daily paper, Gazeta Wyborcza. During the meeting, which Michnik secretly taped, Rywin made a veiled proposition to the editor: In exchange for $17.5 million, he would lobby powerful members of the ruling Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) to tailor a new media bill to the benefit of Agora, Gazeta's publisher and Poland's biggest media company. The proposed changes to the bill would allow Agora to purchase a television station.

From its first meeting, it was clear that the so-called Rywin commission was split in two groups--one that believed that the man who co-produced Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List was acting as an intermediary between Agora and "people holding power" (a phrase that has become a colloquialism in Polish speech), and a second one, with SLD ties, that insisted that Rywin had acted alone.

Opposition members Tomasz Nalecz, Jan Rokita, and Zbigniew Ziobro have long maintained that a group that includes former public TV CEO Robert Kwiatkowski, National Media Board member Wlodzimierz Czarzasty, and a close aide to Prime Minister Leszek Miller, Aleksandra Jakubowska, had pushed Rywin to act.

On 5 April, the opposition members on the commission got the unexpected news that a bloc of five members, led by the SDL's Anita Blochowiak, were backing their own version of a final report. After Blochowiak negotiated with less powerful commission members--including Bohdan Kopczynski and Jan Laczny--the opinions of Nalecz, Rokita, and Ziobro were left out.

After the decision, a visibly shaken Nalecz asked, "Let's take a little while to get accustomed to what just happened. Are we actually aware of what we just voted [for]?"

The final report adopted by the commission says that Rywin acted alone and that there was no "group holding power" behind him, and completely cleared Miller of all involvement in the multimillion-dollar bribery scandal.

After the meeting, Nalecz told journalists, "What we accepted is ridiculous." Blochowiak's report, said Rokita, was "deceitful crap," adding, "This investigative committee ends its work in disgrace."

Ziobro, a member of the Law and Justice party, said, "It's a great scandal and a grim day for Polish parliamentarism."

Blochowiak's only public comment was that she wanted "the truth."


The Polish media have extensively covered the unexpected conclusion of the commission's investigation. Gazeta Wyborcza wrote that the adoption of Blochowiak's report constituted a blow to the already sinking SLD, which recently experienced a high-level secession when a group of parliamentarians led by Sejm Speaker Marek Borowski formed a new party, Polish Social Democracy (SDPL).

"Today's triumph may prove to be an own goal [for the SLD]," Gazeta Wyborcza commentator Juliusz Rawicz wrote on 6 April. "Because the public saw what it saw. ... Thanks to this, the lie that now passes as the commission's official report will not live long. And the Rywin scandal, instead of coming to an end, may be only beginning." Blochowiak's comment about seeking "the truth," he added, was "incredibly cynical."

The daily Trybuna has consistently supported the idea that Rywin acted on his own, and that the scandal owed more to Gazeta Wyborcza's ability to influence public opinion than to what actually happened during the July meeting.

In a 6 April editorial, Piotr Skura wrote, "It was only yesterday when Tomasz Nalecz, Zbigniew Ziobro, and Jan Rokita discovered democracy's rudimentary rule. Their votes count for exactly the same as the votes of [disrespected] Bohdan Kopczynski or Jan Laczny."

In the same edition of Trybuna, under the huge lead story about the commission's vote, the paper published several short interviews with commission members under the headline, "The groan of the losers."

Those "losers" are now reportedly considering producing a joint version of the final report to bring to a vote in the Sejm, which can either approve or overturn the commission's finding.

As the commission was finalizing its decision, the judicial system is just beginning to reach its own: Rywin is currently on trial on bribery charges in a Warsaw court. Rywin, who faces three years in prison if convicted, has spoken only once during his trial: to deny that he was attempting bribery and to call the audio recording that Michnik made "incomplete."