Polish MPs vote to relax disputed anti-defamation law
PR dla Zagranicy
The lower house of Poland’s parliament on Wednesday voted to relax a contested anti-defamation law which strained the country's ties with the US and Israel earlier this year.
A picture of the main gate to the German Nazi Auschwitz death camp, made with some of the names of the Holocaust victims who died there. Image: Dzeni/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)
The changes could mean people would no longer face possible fines or imprisonment for using the phrase “Polish death camps” or for suggesting Poland as a nation was complicit in the Holocaust.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said his government was “not backing down” and that the law had “achieved more than we had hoped” since it was implemented in March.
The government had hoped that the anti-defamation law would fight the use of the phrase “Polish death camps” in reference to German Nazi concentration camps in occupied WWII Poland because such wording “distorted history”.
Under the changes adopted by parliament on Wednesday, Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance, which is charged with prosecuting WWII and communist-era crimes against the Polish state, can still object to historical inaccuracies and defamation but will have to do so in civil and not criminal courts.
The US and Israel slammed the law, saying Poland was hitting out at freedom of speech and trying to whitewash its history.
Israeli ambassador to Poland Anna Azari has said that in Israel the law "is seen as creating a possibility of punishment for Holocaust survivors' testimony.”
The law had also been protested in Ukraine because it could see penalties for anyone who denies crimes against Poles committed by Ukrainian nationalists between 1925 and 1950.
The foreign ministry in Warsaw said earlier this year that the Polish anti-defamation law "does not inhibit free speech”.
Public broadcaster Polish Radio has launched a special website, GermanDeathCamps.info, aimed at debunking misconceptions about Poland’s role in the Holocaust.
Source: PAP, IAR