WARSAW (Reuters) – A leading Jewish group criticised Poland’s public broadcaster on Friday for its “hateful” role in a tight presidential election race that pits the conservative incumbent against the liberal mayor of Warsaw.
AJC Central Europe, an advocacy group, pointed to a report on public broadcaster TVP’s flagship news show on Thursday that asked if opposition candidate Rafal Trzaskowski would “comply with Jewish demands”, touching on the sensitive issue of Jewish property restitution.
Home to one of the world’s largest Jewish communities before World War Two, Poland is the only European Union country that has not legislated on restoring property to pre-war Jewish owners or their descendants, despite U.S. pressure.
“What’s wrong with Polish public TV?… Yesterday it again warned against ‘satisfying Jewish demands’. Is that b/c you assume this hateful campaign would speak to many Poles? Think abt what message that sends,” the AJC tweeted.
In a statement to Reuters, the AJC said it had been shocked by Polish public television’s use of “anti-Semitic tropes”.
“It’s one thing when such messages are spread by fringe far-right groups. It’s something quite different when this is done by state TV funded with taxpayers’ money,” it said.
International monitors have accused the public broadcaster of being heavily biased in its coverage of Polish politics.
The public broadcaster has previously criticised Trzaskowski for suggesting, while deputy foreign minister, that Poland should negotiate with Jewish groups on property restitution.
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the ruling Law and Justice Party, which is backing President Andrzej Duda in Sunday’s election runoff, on Thursday accused Trzaskowski of lacking patriotism for his stance on restitution.
“How could anyone with even a bit of Polish soul, of Polish heart… say something like this? Trzaskowski clearly doesn’t have this as he thinks this is a matter to discuss,” Kaczynski said in an interview for Catholic broadcaster TV Trwam.
Trzaskowski slammed Kaczynski’s comments on Friday.
“This is exactly what this election is about – whether we will live in a country where the leader of the ruling party can say that we are trash, that we don’t have a Polish heart, a Polish soul,” Trzaskowski told supporters.
(Reporting by Joanna Plucinska, Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk and Pawel Florkiewicz; Editing by Gareth Jones)