Adam Michnik founded the newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza in Poland and is still its editor-in-chief to this day. From there, he developed the challenge of controlling power and a firm Europeanism, which led him to be recognized by the Princess of Asturias Foundation with an award in communications and the humanities.
For this journalist and historian, the award is given at a time of “important political tension in Europe” “where the institutions and forces of civil society defend democratic values against a wave of populist nationalism, often supported by ultra-conservative fundamentalisms of various kinds,” he explains to elDiario.es the situation in his country and in Eastern Europe. In this context, “the role of journalists in this clash is clear: either we defend the freedom of the press, the freedom of citizens, and hence the democratic order, or we are in for a new gloomy 1930s.”
His three decades at the helm of Gazeta Wyborcza, whose first issue was published in 1989, allowed him to keep abreast of democracy in Poland. It arose at a time when the anti-communist opposition movement, led by the Solidarity trade union and supported by Western forces, was overthrowing the Soviet regime and the Eastern Bloc was disintegrating. “After 1989, the press in Poland was pluralistic and free from pressure from the rulers,” Michnik recalls. “The only pressure that could be came from society, but that was normal … different people live together in society, not everyone likes what is written in the newspaper, which I would call liberal left, although more liberal than the left, at least if we view the “left” as the desire to dominate the state through a planned economy and a one-party system,” he notes.
Far-right government and its propaganda media
After 43 years of democracy, the government of the Republic of Poland is headed by the ultra-conservative Andrzej Duda of the Law and Justice party, who won the elections in 2015 and was re-elected in 2020, albeit in a very tough manner. compared to his opponent from the center. “In Poland, a large part of the media is already dominated by the ruling party, which is populist-radical, nationalist and intolerant, and this mainly refers to the public media, which have ceased to be public media and have become institutions of the ruling power. , in party propaganda, which means the death of independent media, because newspapers should cover reality, and not falsify it at the behest of party mentors,” explains Adam Michnik.
Michnik, who was born in 1946, a year after the end of World War II, is receiving this award at a time when a country bordering his own is at war and the media is reporting it in real time… apart from the Russian media information. “Now the question is how to deal with the military disinformation campaign in Ukraine, the campaign that comes from Russia,” the historian asks. “Of course, all these lies must be exposed,” he points out, but warns that “you cannot have a dialogue with those institutions that produce lies, because there is no dialogue in them.” “They write what they write, not to explain the world, not even in a controversial way, but to enslave people, put them to sleep and force them to obey the authorities. And there is only one answer to this, one must be guided by the defense of freedom and truth, these are the two pillars of independent media in a democratic society,” he adds about using the media as propaganda transmitters.
Euro-enthusiasm and brave Poland
Last year, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled against Poland, warning that the independence of judges was compromised. It wasn’t the first time. Michnik does not believe that these sanctions are effective. “There are a lot of rumors, but I don’t see any real change until today,” he says. “The government has announced, for example, that it is going to dissolve the Disciplinary Chamber. [después de que el TJUE dictaminara que es contraria a la legislación comunitaria], which simply serves to repress judges who pass sentences according to the Constitution, and not by order of the authorities, but nothing came of it,” he notes. “I consider this government policy harmful, stupid and suicidal. The fact that the CEU imposes sanctions is normal and should be against all states, any EU state that violates its level of power and the democratic principles of the EU should also be subject to financial sanctions,” he said.
The journalist, who had a militant political past and is a member of the first democratic legislative assembly, admits that he belongs to the group of “Euro-enthusiasts”. “I am not saying that everything is good in the European Union or that everything is working well, because we are all human, not angels, but I am convinced that from the very beginning the Union has been able to avoid conflicts within the EU and, of course, such conflicts, there are no armed ‘ he says. “I think this is a wise revolution because it is non-violent. It is not aimed at destroying anyone, but at enriching each other. Everything that EU membership brought to Poland was positive, I don’t know anything negative, despite the fact that Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and [el expresidente y presidente del partido del Gobierno] Yaroslav Kaczynski,” he says.
Against all odds, Michnik is looking forward to the future thanks to “the initiatives of very brave young people who often save the honor of our country.” “When I look at these people, I look at the future of Poland with optimism, perhaps because my children are also among these people,” he says.
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