Polish Ambassador Accuses Icelandic Media Source of “Fake News”
Stundin newspaper received a formal letter of complaint from the Polish Ambassador to Iceland for their news story on a controversial march that took place on November 11 in Warsaw. The ambassador also complained to Iceland’s president and prime minister and asked Stundin to apologise for the news story and take it down.
Studin wrote about the march, which took place on the centennial of the re-establishment of Poland’s independence. Called the March of Independence, the event included Polish politicians as well as nationalist and far-right groups. More than 200,000 people are said to have taken part in the march.
Story called “fake news”
According to Stundin, Ambassador Gerard Pokruszyński accused the article’s author of calling all Poles who “love their fatherland” fascists or nazis. He also called the article “fake news” and said he hoped it wouldn’t have “serious consequences” in diplomatic relations between Poland and Iceland.
Journalist Jón Bjarki Magnússon, who wrote the article, says the newspaper has not received such a response to their writing in decades. He expressed concern at the ambassador’s letter, which had named him specifically.
He says Pokruszyński’s letter portrayed him as “an enemy of the Polish nation. It’s a really uncomfortable feeling to be portrayed that way. Because of course I’m not the enemy of any nation or people at all and I like Polish people, care about many of them, and go to Poland often.”
Messages “somewhere close to” threats
Jón Bjarki says he has also received “uncomfortable” messages from Polish people in Iceland in response to the news story. Though he says there have been no direct threats, the messages are “somewhere close to that.”
The journalist stated he considered the situation “very serious” but was choosing to interpret the action as “some kind of mistake” for the time being. He says Stundin will continue to cover current affairs in Poland, which fall 29 spots on the World Press Freedom Index between 2015 and 2016. “The state of affairs in the country in regards to freedom of press and then this reaction from the ambassador are not completely out of context,” Jón stated.
Government declines to respond
Pokruszyński sent a copy of his letter to the Icelandic Prime Minister and President, as well as the Parliament of Iceland and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The latter has stated it does not intent to respond to the letter.
PM Katrín Jakobsdóttir confirmed that the Prime Minister’s Office had received a copy of the letter and does not intent to respond to it. “It’s of course clear that in Iceland there is freedom of press and the government is not the right party to look to if a person considers they have been misrepresented in media coverage, therefore we will take no action on this issue as the Icelandic government has nothing to do with it.”