Follow the big issues that shape Polish politics and society by signing up to our weekly newsletter "News from Poland: Democracy at Stake". It allows you to stay up to speed on developments concerning the ongoing assault on democratic institutions, rule of law, and human rights in Poland.
An attempt to demonize refugees
Poland’s Ministers of Interior and National Defense concluded their Monday press conference by showing a picture of a man having sexual intercourse with a cow. It is unclear whether the explicit content came from a memory card found in the woods by border guard officers or a phone belonging to one of the migrants. According to Stanisław Żaryn, the spokesman for the Ministry of Interior and Administration, the picture is supposed to prove that some of the migrants on Poland’s eastern border are sexual deviants. Mr Żaryn emphasized that the photos indicated "acts associated with sexual disorders".
A screenshot from the conference, showing the two ministers staring at a large screen where a man is copulating with an animal, was circulated online and shown on the public broadcaster’s evening news program. TVP Info - the ruling party’s main propaganda mouthpiece – showed a video clip with the title: "He raped a cow and wanted to enter Poland?".
Mariusz Kamiński, the Minister of Interior, pointed out that the presented material does not concern all refugees, and that he did not intend to depreciate anyone. Standing next to him, the head of the Ministry of Defense, Mariusz Błaszczak, said that although political correctness would suggest avoiding such issues, homeland security is more important. All throughout Monday, the ruling camp’s propaganda channels spread a message clearly meant to associate refugees with zoophilia and pedophilia.
27.09.2021 Warszawa Wspólna konferencja MSWiA, MON i SG Zbyszek Kaczmarek/REPORTER / Zbyszek Kaczmarek/REPORTER
Alleged evidence comes from an old pornographic video
However, as the news portal OKO.press has found out, the photo does not depict a refugee. It is a still frame from an old pornographic film, recorded on VHS videotape, which can be found on the internet. Additionally, in contrast to what the Ministers have claimed, the depicted animal is not a cow, but a mare.
According to the Polish Border Guard, the picture belongs to an Afghan national who arrived in Belarus via the Balkan route. The description of the photo highlights the man’s alleged ties to the Taliban, but no other evidence was provided to support this claim. It is also unclear whether any criminal proceedings are pending against the Afghan citizen (they would have to serve as evidence in the case).
The authenticity of the photos and information about their exact source is hard to verify. Among other materials presented during the press conference, there were also scenes of terrorist attacks and executions, but also a ticket to a football game between Slovakia and Poland during the 2020 UEFA European Football Championship (which was supposed to prove that the migrants stayed in Russia because the game took place in St. Petersburg). There were also photos of Afghan and Iraqi soldiers (who cooperated with NATO allies, including Poland, during a combat mission in both countries), which was supposed to prove that the migrants represent a threat to Poland, yet the ministers failed to explain what kind of threat they were referring to.
Ministers accused of propagating pornographic material
On Tuesday, members of the Razem Party accused both ministers of distributing pornographic material involving animals and children. They have notified the prosecutor’s office about a possible crime.
- We are appalled that Ministers Kamiński and Błaszczak are using mass media to spread pornographic content involving animals and children. There can be no consent for such behavior, it is forbidden by law, and people committing such acts should be prosecuted regardless of their position- said Konrad Wiślicz-Węgorowski from the Warsaw branch of the Razem Party.
Every day, 400 journalists at Gazeta Wyborcza write verified, fact-checked stories about Polish politics and society, keeping a critical eye on the ruling camp’s persistent assault on democratic values and the rule of law; the growing cultural tension between religious fundamentalism and human rights; and the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic. Our journalists are on the front lines in 25 Polish cities, reporting from the streets, hospitals, and courtrooms about issues that move public opinion.
We decided to make our service available to everyone free of charge in order to provide access to high quality journalism for expats and English speakers interested in Polish affairs.
The access to information should be equal for all.