Pro-government media in Poland are facing severe backlash after the suicide of an opposition MP's teenage son. Because of their careless coverage, the 15-year-old boy was publicly identified as the victim of sexual abuse.
Ten artykuł czytasz w ramach bezpłatnego limitu

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.

Over the weekend, social media feeds in Poland were flooded with messages of shock and anger in reaction to the suicide of a 15-year-old boy from Szczecin. While it remains unclear what exactly led Mikołaj Filiks to take his own life, there are reasons to believe that the child’s decision was in part influenced by a smear campaign meant to politically discredit his mother, a well-known opposition MP Magdalena Filiks.

An orchestrated campaign of hatred

The Civic Platform MP is no stranger to political attacks from members of the ruling camp. Her political record speaks for itself. Suffice to mention her involvement in the government-critical civic organization Committee for the Defense of Democracy (KOD), open declaration of solidarity with judge Igor Tuleya, defending Women's Strike protesters against police brutality, and putting up a banner with a government-critical slogan on the façade of the local Law and Justice party headquarters in Szczecin. Yet, the most recent hate campaign against Magdalena Filiks is unprecedented in scale.

At the end of December 2022, Tomasz Duklanowski, editor-in-chief of the state-controlled Public Radio Szczecin, published an article describing the case of Krzysztof F., a former employee at the regional marshal’s office who, back in 2021, was sentenced to 4 years and 10 months in prison after being found guilty of child abuse. Duklanowski framed the story as a conspiracy of the liberal opposition intended to cover up a "pedophile scandal inside the marshall’s office".

Setting off a smear campaign picked up and amplified by ruling party acolytes and state-controlled media, Duklanowski’s sensationalist publication allowed to effectively disclose the confidential identity of Krzysztof F.’s child victim – Mikołaj Filiks.

Some of the outlets went as far as to suggest the victim’s identity in the headlines.

Figures associated with the ruling Law and Justice party, including local MPs, members of the Szczecin city council, right-wing celebrities and pundits, actively participated in the hate campaign. At least two of them put photos of Magdalena Filiks next to their social media posts. This, in turn, triggered a deluge of online attacks against the Civic Platform MP. Haters accused her of participating in a pedophile conspiracy in the name of party loyalty. As a matter of fact, she notified the police as soon as she found out that her child has been sexually abused.

Public backlash and investigation

Even the National Broadcasting Council, dominated by ruling camp loyalists, found that Radio Szczecin behaved unethically. The council’s Chairman, Maciej Świrski, initiated proceedings meant "to punish the broadcasters of Polskie Radio Szczecin and TVP Info for broadcasting content enabling the identification of child victims, which grossly endangered their welfare".

Facing heavy backlash from public opinion, some of the pundits and politicians who participated in the hate campaign are now deleting their social media posts. Tomasz Duklanowski, meanwhile, is portraying himself as a victim of the liberal opposition’s efforts to "vilify him". He has been on leave since last week and is not expected to be back at work at least until Tuesday, the date of Mikołaj’s funeral. It remains unclear whether his absence has anything to do with the teenager’s tragic death.

The Public Prosecutor's Office in Szczecin launched a routine investigation into the possible causes of the boy’s suicide. It will also examine the messages Mikołaj received on his phone and computer after the story of his sexual abuse became public.

Reacting to the announcement of the boy’s death, Donald Tusk, leader of Poland’s largest opposition party, tweeted on Saturday: "We will hold the Law and Justice party accountable for every wrongdoing, for all the human wrongs and tragedies they have caused while being in power. This is a promise".


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 Russian invasion in Ukraine. Our journalists are on the front lines in 32 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.

Gazeta Wyborcza Foundation
icon/Bell Czytaj ten tekst i setki innych dzięki prenumeracie
Wybierz prenumeratę, by czytać to, co Cię ciekawi to zawsze sprawdzone informacje, szczere wywiady, zaskakujące reportaże i porady ekspertów w sprawach, którymi żyjemy na co dzień. Do tego magazyny o książkach, historii i teksty z mediów europejskich.
    Zaloguj się
    Chcesz dołączyć do dyskusji? Zostań naszym prenumeratorem