BUENOS AIRES (JTA) — A right-wing Polish group sued a newspaper in Argentina under the country’s new Holocaust law for using a photo of Polish partisans to illustrate an article about the Jedwabne pogrom of 1941.
The lawsuit was filed on Friday by the Polish League Against Defamation, or the Reduta Dobrego Imienia, hours after the controversial new law took effect. It is the first lawsuit filed that invokes the new law.
The League, or RDI, filed the lawsuit in a Warsaw court about a story published in the Argentinean newspaper Pagina/12 in December 2017, about the Jedwabne pogrom, a 1941 massacre of more than 300 Jews by their Polish neighbors during the Nazi occupation. The article was written by psychologist Federico Pavlovsky.
According to RDI, the Argentinean news outlet accompanied the story with an image of Polish resistance fighters who had nothing to do with the massacre. The article was trying to “confirm Polish anti-Semitism to its readers,” showing a “huge ignorance about history, for which it should officially apologize to all Poles,” Radio Poland reported.
“If successful, this attempt at international censorship could threaten freedom of expression worldwide,” the newspaper said in a statement.
Sunday’s edition of Pagina/12, which is published in Buenos Aires, is mostly dedicated to the issue of Poland’s new law, an amendment to the National Institute of Remembrance which criminalizes claims that the Polish nation or state was responsible for Nazi crimes.
The article referenced in the lawsuit, “Familiar faces,” was republished again on Sunday, with an editor’s note indicating that it was this article originally published on Dec. 18 that sparked the complaint.
“The organization has a right to submit such a lawsuit. If the court decides the complaint is admissible – and it should do so — then there will be a court case,” Deputy Justice Minister Michal Wojcik told private radio station Zet.
The Argentine newspaper published letters expressing solidarity with the newspaper and letters from critics of the new controversial law, including experts on law, human rights and freedom of expression. The president of the Argentinean Jewish political umbrella DAIA, Ariel Cohen Sabban, wrote: “About the complaint received by Pagina/12 we are very concerned about the position that is being taken by the Polish state.”
According to its website, RDI was established in 2012 to initiate and support actions aimed at correcting false information on Poland’s history, in particular World War II, such as the role of Poles in the war, Polish people’s attitude to Jews, and German concentration camps.
Under the controversial new Polish law, violators could face up to three years in prison, though government officials have said that prosecution under the law is unlikely. Critics of the law include Israeli leaders, Yad Vashem, the U.S. State Department and Jewish groups.