Welcome to the weekly Newsletter of Wyborcza in English. The Minister of Justice Zbigniew Ziobro is escalating the conflict over LGBT+ rights in a cynical effort to score political capital and gain an upper hand in his ongoing bitter rivalry with Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.
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Last week, the prosecutor's office subservient to Ziobro was awarded its motion for a 2-month arrest for Margot, a non-binary LGBT activist who is accused of causing a 1500 euro worth damage to a van painted with homophobic slogans and of mildly harming the van driver during an altercation. This arrest is difficult to justify: Margot's not hiding, nor was she trying to obfuscate the evidence.  The court is refusing to publish the written justification for its absurd decision. 

As a member of a radical, direct action collective, Margot is the perfect enemy for Ziobro both to divide the opposition and to strengthen the far-right wing of the ruling camp that he represents. 

Despite the fact that he serves as the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General, tasked with the responsibility to ensure that all citizens are treated equally before the law. The reality, however, lorries filled with hateful lies about the LGBT+ community are an "expression of freedom of speech". A rainbow flag hanged on a monument depicting Jesus Christ is "an outrageous insult to religious feelings".

Last friday, almost 50 people were detained for protesting against Margot’s arrest. The representatives of the National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture (KMPT) cooperating with the Ombudsman office point to serious abuses concerning their detention by the police. All 33 people interviewed by KMPT lawyers pointed to the enormous chaos prevailing among the police officers. Some of the detainees were interrogated at night, without access to food or water. Among them were random people who at that time went out to do groceries and were on their way back from shopping. Several interlocutors drew attention to the brutality of the police at the time of their arrest. 

Ziobro is increasingly explicit in expressing his ambitions to become the second-in-command and a future successor to Jarosław Kaczyński. This week, he made opaque foreign policy statements about the situation in Belarus, curiously advising Morawiecki to evaluate the events taking place there as being “more complex” than they seem.

Together with his acolytes, Ziobro is also proposing a bill targeting non-governmental organizations in a similar manner to practices already in place in Russia and, to some extent, Hungary. Suggesting that some NGOs might be "agents of foreign influence" , Ziobro’s faction has announced plans to introduce a bill that would require non-governmental organizations to disclose their foreign funding sources.  

The ruling camp is linking the protests against the brutal treatment of LGBT+ activists with supposed “foreign interference”. Joanna Lichocka, a former journalist and a Law and Justice MP in charge of drafting the new media bill, gave an interview this week in which she accused Germany of attempting to interfere with the presidential election through German-owned media outlets. She also attacked them for defending LGBT protesters against police brutality after the recent skirmishes on the streets of Warsaw, describing their coverage as an example of the media's "fight against the Polish state". 

While the Polish ruling camp is going after LGBT+ communities, independent NGOs and media outlets critical of the government in a coordinated effort to dismantle the Polish civil society, the citizens of Belarus are waging an unprecedented battle against the authoritarian rule of Aleksandr Lukashenko. The scale of protests is historic. Despite a full mobilization of the special police units controlled by the Belarusian Ministry of Interior, Lukashenko was not able to quell the protests and decided to deploy military forces. 

Unfortunately, while Belorussians are sacrificing their lives for democracy, both Brussels and Warsaw , turned out to be completely unprepared for the violent scenario playing out in Belarus right now

Belarusian forces went as far as looking for foreign journalists in the hotels in which they are staying. In response, a group of Polish journalists currently in Minsk, including our two colleagues from Gazeta Wyborcza, issued an appeal asking EU governments to stand for their safety .

If you want to know more, please join us at: wyborcza.pl/newsfrompoland

Thank you for being with us. There is no freedom without solidarity.

Miłosz Wiatrowski

Newsletter’s Editor

PhD candidate in Contemporary European History, Yale University 

 

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