On 10 October 2019, a moment before parliamentary elections, Polish state TV aired something that was supposed to be a video report warning of the malicious actions of the LGBT community. They are promoting vulgarity and nudity, attacking our Christian values – the video accused. The ‘documentary’ suggested that the actions of LGBT community are comparable to a foreign invasion. ‘Invasion’ was the title of the whole thing.
The broadcast was only one act in a months-long anti-LGBT campaign orchestrated by the ruling Law and Justice party and the state media which were completely subjugated to the conservative government. These 30 minutes of distortion and manipulation was to mobilize right-wing voters and persuade them that their vote was necessary to win over the ‘invaders’. But the LGBT community stroke back.
Kampania Przeciw Homofobii (KPH, Campaign Against Homophobia), which is one of the oldest Polish organizations struggling for LGBT rights, could not just ignore the pseudo-documentary. Especially given the fact that the video used, among other things, a footage from the KPH headquarters provided by a woman who pretended to be a volunteer of the organisation.
Shortly after the broadcast, KPH filed a pre-litigation summons and then a lawsuit against TVP (Polish state television) with the District Court in Warsaw. In June 2020, the court issued an order prohibiting TVP from distributing ‘Invasion’. In February, the case returned to the Regional Court in Warsaw as a result of a lawsuit filed by KPH for infringement of personal rights. The list of demands included the broadcast of an apology in the main edition of the daily News program and 10,000 PLN (a little more than 2000 EUR) payment for a social cause indicated by the plaintiffs.
And this is the verdict. The state TV must issue the apology in the program and time suggested by KPH, and also pay the indicated sum. The beneficiary would be Lambda Warsaw – yet another longstanding group of LGBT rights defenders.
– With the verdict on ‘Invasion’, the court has sent a clear message to the whole of Poland: there is no place for homo- and transphobia in the public media. This is not only a victory for KPH – it is a victory for the entire LGBT+ community –
comments Slava Melnyk, the head of Campaign Against Homophobia.
The apology will be heard by millions of viewers all over Poland. According to the verdict of the District Court in Warsaw, represented by Joanna Kruczkowska, the apology in the main edition of the News should be published in the form of a lector-read text no later than 14 days after the verdict became final. The content of the apology should read as follows:
“Telewizja Polska S.A., with its registered office in Warsaw, apologises to the association Kampania Przeciw Homofobii, with its registered office in Warsaw, for the unlawful infringement of the association’s personal rights, i.e. the violation of its good name and freedom in the material entitled “Invasion”, which was prepared in violation of the principles of journalistic integrity and diligence, according to the script and direction of Przemysław Wenerski”.
TVP was also ordered to hand over PLN 3,167 to KPH as reimbursement of legal costs and PLN 1,100 to the state treasury as unpaid legal costs. In the oral explanation of the ruling, Judge Joanna Kruczkowska pointed out, among other things, that the recordings used in ‘Invasion’, which were given to TVP by a woman employed by the Television posing as a a KPH volunteer, were illegally obtained. The judge pointed out the one-sided tone of the material as well as the use of recordings from outside Poland in a manipulated manner.
The verdict is not final – TVP has the possibility to appeal the court’s decision.
Courts against homo- and transphobia in public media
Today’s verdict is in line with the verdict on ‘Invasion’ issued in June, when activists and activists whose image appears in the material sued TVP. In the written ruling, one can read that
‘The court came to the conviction that such material – in this form and with this content – should never have been published on television, especially public television. Undoubtedly, the topic of sexual orientation and the rights of non-heteronormative persons is a socially relevant problem that should be covered in the media, but in a way that builds public awareness, aimed at protecting minorities, protecting them from ridicule, humiliation or persecution. This should be the task of the media, especially the public media. However, with the broadcast of ‘Invasion’, TVP did not even try to meet this task, using this environment as a tool in the then ongoing election campaign”.
KPH’s triumph is a victory for the entire LGBT+ community
With the verdict on the LGBT+ couple’s ‘Invasion’ report, the court has sent a clear message to the whole of Poland: there is no place for homo- and transphobia in the public media. Our victory is in fact a victory for all LGBT+ people, because every action of our organisation is aimed at improving the situation of the community we represent,” says KPH director Slava Melnyk, adding, “Today we have taken another step towards equality for LGBT+ people. More lies ahead until equality becomes a reality.
The positive significance of today’s judgment is also indicated by the attorney-at-law Jakub Turski, representing KPH before the court.
Today’s expression of the Court once again confirms that Polish law does not condone homophobia. Both LGBT organisations and individuals can assert their rights if they become victims of hate speech. There are legal tools for this in the Polish Civil Code. The media, especially the public media, must not disseminate untrue, hurtful and homophobic material. This contradicts both journalistic ethics and the law– he commented.
It is worth pointing out that bringing the case against the Polish Television was only possible thanks to more than half a thousand people who supported the collection ‘Invasion of Equality on TVP’ launched by KPH shortly after the court – as a result of the association’s intervention – ordered TVP to remove ‘Invasion’ from Youtube.
It is also noteworthy that the then Ombudsman, Adam Bodnar, joined the case by supporting the action in its entirety. This was the first time that an Ombudsman has supported an action against a public medium in a personal rights case.
Invasion was not the last case of homophobic hate speech promoted and/or sponsored by the ruling right-wing parties of Poland. Leading politicians still consider attacking LGBT+ community a good idea to mobilize voters. But there are good news too: despite all efforts at disseminating homophobia, the young generation of Polish people, and especially Polish women, does not accept this. Hatred will not prevail!
Press communique of Kampania Przeciw Homofobii was used to create this post.