Polish magazine criticized for planning 'LGBT-free zone' stickers

Liberal Poles denounced the move as "fascist," while the conservative magazine Gazeta Polska cried foul after Instagram removed the sticker image as hate speech.
By Tim Fitzsimons

Gazeta Polska, a conservative weekly newsmagazine published in Poland, generated an uproar online by promising to distribute “LGBT free zone” stickers to its readers in next week’s issue.

The paper is supportive of Poland’s Law and Justice Party, the largest in Poland’s Parliament. Law and Justice is a conservative, anti-gay and anti-immigrant party that dominates the Polish countryside.

Earlier this year, small town councils in Poland passed resolutions denouncing LGBTQ “ideology,” and observers see parallels in its current focus on the LGBTQ community to the 2015 parliamentary elections in which Law and Justice ran an anti-immigrant campaign.

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The Law and Justice party “needs an enemy, someone to fight against, someone they can use to raise fear,” Bartosz Staszewski, an LGBTQ activist, told Reuters after passage of the resolutions.

While conservative social media users cheered the move on Twitter and on Facebook, many liberal Poles connected the effort to create “LGBT-free” zones to Nazi efforts to create zones free of Jews.

“This is fascism officially introduced in Poland,” wrote Paulina Młynarska, a Polish actor and columnist. “Nonheterosexual people are around 10 percent or more in every society. What's next? Rainbow armbands? Camps?”

Twitter user Mateusz Goździkowski shared an image of the sticker beside an image from Nazi Germany showing a “Jew-free zone” and said “so far, yet so close.”

Paweł Rabiej, the deputy president of Warsaw and member of the centrist Nowoczesna party, said he would submit a complaint to the prosecutor’s office. “The German fascists created zones free of Jews,” Rabiej wrote on Twitter. “Apartheid, of black.”

The image of the sticker was censored by Instagram as hate speech, according to Tomasz Sakiewicz, the editor in chief of Gazeta Polska. In the monthly Niezalezna, another paper connected to Gazeta Polska, Sakiewicz was quoted saying that “censorship was typical of Nazism, imposing ideology, too,” then connected the LGBTQ rights movement to Ernst Röhm, a gay Nazi militia leader, who — along with other gay Nazis — was murdered in the 1934 purge known as the Night of the Long Knives.

U.S. Ambassador to Poland Georgette Mosbacher responded on Twitter, saying in Polish, “I am disappointed and concerned that some groups use stickers to promote hatred and intolerance.”

“We respect freedom of speech, but we must stand together on the side of values such as diversity and tolerance,” Mosbacher added, using a Polish hashtag that translated to “we are all equal.”

Mosbacher's comments prompted a response from Sakiewicz, also on Twitter: “We are opposed only to the imposition of views by force. Being an activist in the gay movement does not make anyone more tolerant,” the editor wrote.

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