Since the start of my career as a journalist in Poland, I did not publish a single article that did not elicit hateful comments in the comments section.
These comments have included “Ustasha descendant,” “What are you doing here, go back to Croatia,” or “His grandfather was a butcher, and he comes here to teach us about democracy,” and so on.
For those who don’t know, the Ustasha were members of the Second World War Croatian collaboration regime — a regime which committed heinous crimes against Jews and Serbs. Although even in Croatia I had already learned that I should not pay attention to comments under my articles, I must admit that I was not indifferent to them. No one in my family had belonged to the Ustasha. My grandfather died as an underground soldier in Tito’s army, but he never was a communist.
I consider the Ustasha’s crimes to be a dark stain on Croatian history, of which I am generally proud of apart from this exception.
In time, I stopped caring about these insults, as they were written by internet trolls. After all, insulting people due to their name and nationality was purely on their level.
Yet, what do we do when leading Polish politicians stoop to such a low level? Donald Tusk is a special case in point considering what he did at a recent press conference.
After being asked a question by Polish public television journalist Samuel Pereira, Tusk responded: “Please forgive this joke, but I did not believe that the last week of 2021 would be so Portuguese. Two outspoken persons — coach Sousa and reporter Pereira — will remain in our memories for a long time. Maybe they won’t be remembered well, but we will remember this Portuguese finale in 2021.”
No, these words were not a joke, as Tusk claims and as media outlets close to him have reported.
Tusk’s words were nothing more than xenophobia which the man, who calls himself the leader of the opposition, used to answer a serious question.
These words were nothing more than xenophobia which the man, who calls himself the leader of the opposition, used to answer a serious question — disgusting xenophobia which targeted a journalist whose only fault was asking politically difficult questions to the establishment’s top politician.
That tough question was enough for Pereira to be mocked for his surname, and his Portuguese roots were enough to put into the same group with a football coach who behaved dishonestly and unprofessionally.
[Portugal’s Paolo Sousa had unexpectedly resigned as the coach of Poland’s national football team a few days ago — just prior to the World Cup 2022 playoffs. This was seen in Poland as an incredible lack of loyalty and sparked outrage among fans].
Donald Tusk’s harmful remarks are unacceptable.
This has nothing to do with politics, but with the basic rules of democracy in which we all live in. Each and every one of my colleagues who cares about those rules should admit that Tusk behaved scandalously.
Will Polish establishment-friendly media continue to promote the idea of tolerance which they so staunchly support, or will loyalty to their political protectors be more important to them? Will they let Tusk pollute public debate space in Poland? And will Tusk even apologize for his xenophobia?
Should I expect a similar troll “joke” from Tusk when I ask him an uncomfortable question one day just because I don’t have a Polish name like my colleague Pereira?