Polish state broadcaster TVP has been ordered to take down a controversial anti-LGBT film from YouTube after a Warsaw court ruled in favour of the LGBT rights organisation Campaign Against Homophobia (KPH), which had accused the film of violating personal rights.
The half-hour documentary Invasion (Inwazja) was advertised as revealing the “aims, methods and money” behind Poland’s LGBT community through supposed undercover reporting behind the scenes of equality marches.
It was first broadcast on TVP’s main public television channel TVP1 days before the Polish parliamentary election in October, ahead of which the ruling PiS party had used anti-LGBT rhetoric as a centrepiece of its election campaign, suggesting that the party could protect Poland from “LGBT ideology”.
The organisation’s representing legal counsel Jakub Turski successfully argued that the film “violates the personal rights of the Campaign Against Homophobia, in the form of honour (good fame, good name) and freedom of association,” reports Gazeta Prawna.
On Monday, Warsaw’s district court ruled in favour of KPH with a security order, which means that TVP have to remove the documentary from YouTube. The court also banned the broadcaster from distributing the film in whole or in any part for a year.
“This is a great success for KPH and Jakub Turski,” said the campaign’s head Slava Melnyk, quoted by Gazeta Wyborcza, “thanks to whom this homophobic and socially harmful libel will disappear from the network.”
“The Regional Court found that in the light of the state of the case presented by us and the evidence submitted, the claim and the legal interest of KPH are plausible. We are very pleased with the court decision. Now we are waiting for the reaction from the broadcaster,” added Turski.
TVP now has 60 days to respond to the ruling, which is not final. But KPH also revealed that they are planning further lawsuits against TVP. They encouraged supporters to donate money to their fundraiser, hoping to collect 35,000 zloty for a total of eight future court proceedings.
When first aired, the October broadcast of Invasion was met with intense criticism, including from The Left’s current presidential candidate and MEP Robert Biedroń. At the time, some Poles also used the Twitter hashtag used by TVP to advertise the documentary, #inwazjaLGBT, to express solidarity with the Polish LGBT community in the run-up to the election, according to RadioZET.
KPH recently sent a letter to TVP, requesting that they remove the film from YouTube and halt its distribution, as well as issue an apology during the flagship evening news programme, “Wiadomości”.
They also called on the broadcaster to transfer 10,000 zloty to the Lambda Warsaw association helpline – which offers support to the Polish LGBT community and their relatives – or to broadcast their film “Stoję po stronie młodzieży”, which includes excerpts from letters written by young LGBT people.
KPH also claimed that the documentary portrayed the organisation falsely, accusing the broadcaster of journalistic malpractice. The programme included footage of some employees of the organisation, which were secretly recorded by a TVP journalist posing as a volunteer. TVP did not respond to the letter, so KPH filed a lawsuit against them.
Today’s judgement also contrasts with previous court rulings concerning anti-LGBT rhetoric. In February, a court in Wrocław dismissed a lawsuit against the organisers of an anti-LGBT campaign that portrays homosexuals as paedophiles. The judge found that the activity had an “informative”, “educational” purpose and helped raise awareness of paedophilia.
Under the current government, public media has been used to support the government’s narrative, by providing disproportionate airtime to the ruling camp, as well as presenting coverage, especially in news reports, which praises PiS and criticises the party’s opponents.
Last month, Poland’s commission for human rights, Adam Bodnar, said state television’s coverage of the presidential campaign, in which it has given far more airtime to the president than his rivals, violates the law and undermines the fairness of the elections.
Poland has also recently been ranked the worst country in the EU for LGBT rights, with ILGA-Europe, who created the ranking, citing “hateful rhetoric from the government and the church”.
Main image credit: TVP
Juliette Bretan is a freelance journalist covering Polish and Eastern European current affairs and culture. Her work has featured on the BBC World Service, and in CityMetric, The Independent, Ozy, New Eastern Europe and Culture.pl.