Polish state TV host decries past anti-LGBT output

Date: 2024-02-12T18:52:00.000Z

Location: www.bbc.co.uk

A journalist for the Polish state broadcaster has apologised for his channel's "shameful" role in spreading anti-LGBT sentiment.

Host Wojciech Szelag said that LGBT people had been targeted for "years" by "hateful words".

The channel, TVP Info, was criticised as a mouthpiece of the previous governing Law and Justice (PiS) party.

But pro-EU Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who came to power in December, has overseen changes to the broadcaster.

Introducing the Guest of the Evening show, Mr Szelag told two activists, Bart Staszewski and Maja Heban: "LGBT+ people are not an ideology, but people: specific names, faces, loved ones and friends.

"All these people should hear the words, 'I'm sorry,' from this place today."

Mr Staszewski told the BBC he was "nearly in tears" when he heard the apology.

Under PiS rule between 2015 and 2023, TVP frequently broadcast anti-LGBT stories.

The leader of PiS, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, regularly denounced the "madness" of people "declaring" themselves gay or changing gender and blamed Western Europe for exporting alien ideas to Catholic Poland.

While running for re-election in 2020, President Andrzej Duda, a PiS ally, told a rally that LGBT was an "ideology" rather than people.

Mr Staszewski said the previous government had used TVP Info as "a tool of total hate against people like me".

On 20 December last year, TVP Info was taken off air after top officials were dismissed by Minister of Culture Bartlomiej Sienkiewicz.

The move was described by Mr Tusk's government as intended to "depoliticise" state media, but many, including Polish liberals, had concerns about the way he went about recovering editorial control.

The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights said public media required urgent reform but said the new government's methods - initially using a government minister to sack management, just as PiS itself did in 2015 when it took editorial control - raised "serious doubts".

The channel's headquarters were occupied by PiS politicians in protest. But the protest failed and TVP resumed broadcasting on 29 December with a changed editorial line.

Mr Szelag began working at TVP Info in January. His appointment is part of a sweeping series of personnel changes at the channel under the new government.

The new management of TVP Info has also apologised for attacks on Pawel Adamowicz, the former mayor of Gdansk, who was assassinated in 2019. Mr Adamowicz was known for his liberal politics, including supporting LGBT rights.

Polish LGBT activists say TVP Info was instrumental in spreading anti-LGBT hate under PiS rule. In 2020, a court ordered the channel to take down an anti-LGBT film, Invasion, from YouTube.