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Poland29 May 2006

Government demands closure of far-right website but fails to probe threats to journalists

The Polish government called on US authorities on 28 May to shut down the far-right Internet website Redwatch, which is run from the United States, a government spokesman said yesterday. The move follows a 24 May appeal by Reporters Without Borders to Polish justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro to investigate far-right Polish groups such as “Blood and Honour” that are publicised by Redwatch.

A Polish prosecutor looking into “Blood and Honour” had said it was impossible to identify its militants in Poland because the site is hosted in the US.

Since January, the Redwatch-Poland site has carried a list of what it calls “enemy” journalists working for left and far-left groups, with their names, addresses and phtos.

A journalist of the daily Trybuna, is the latest addition to the list, bringing the number of threatened journalists to 16.


26 May 2006

Justice minister warned about danger posed by threats on neo-fascist website

Reporters Without Borders wrote to Polish justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro today to alert him to serious threats being made against Polish journalists by Redwatch, an extreme right-wing group that advocates violence. Redwatch-Poland (www.redwatch.info/sites/redwatch.htm) has posted a list of 15 left-wing and far-left journalists and directly threatened them with reprisals for their anti-fascist views.

Redwatch is an international organisation that has its headquarters in Britain. Its website encourages its members to attack human rights activists, politicians, journalists and students by posting their names, photographs and addresses.

A human rights activist who was No. 2 on the list of “enemies” on the Redwatch-Poland site narrowly escaped a murder attempt on a Warsaw street on 16 May. His assailants hit him, used a pepper spray on him and stabbed him before making off. The knife came within a few centimetres of his heart. The Polish site is an offshoot of the website of another Polish neo-fascist organisation, Blood and Honour (www.bhpoland.org/strona/pl).

The prosecutor handling the case, Elzbieta Janicka, told Reporters Without Borders that the investigation into the Redwatch-Poland site’s content was blocked because it was hosted on a server in the United States. She said the office of the Warsaw public prosecutor had requested information from the relevant US authorities but she did not know if the request had reached the right people. Asked if the police were checking on Polish fascist organisations, she simply said, “enquiries are continuing.”

Reporters Without Borders sent the justice minister the list of the 15 threatened journalists, who prefer not to be identified again for security reasons. The press freedom organisation said it took the threats very seriously as they are often followed by action, and it voiced astonishment about the vagueness of the prosecutor in charge of the case.

It urged the minister to do everything possible to ensure that those responsible are identified and brought to trial and that the threat posed by far-right groups based in Poland is taken seriously by everyone concerned, including the prosecutor. Redwatch-Poland and the other Polish neo-fascist group to which it is linked, Blood and Honour, have views similar to those of such groups as Youth of Great Poland, which belongs to the League of Polish Families (LPR), a member of the ruling coalition.

Redwatch-Poland targets the left-wing and far-left media and those that defend gay rights. The 15 named journalists work for the following media: the www.indymedia.pl website, the monthly Pracownicza Demokracja, the magazine Nigdy Wiecej, the www.gaylife.pl website, the monthly Dzi, the Polish edition of the French monthly Le Monde Diplomatique, the magazine Krytyka Polityczna, the monthly Nowy Robotnik, the daily Dziennik Zachodni, the news website www.innastrona.pl, the quarterly magazine Zadra, Radio Koszalin and the www.lbc.z.pl website. Some of the targeted journalists told Reporters Without Borders they were sceptical about the efforts being made by the police to find those responsible for the threats, pointing out that they had not been contacted by anyone involved in the investigation.




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