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Ethnic Minorities And Media In Poland: DEMOCRACY WITHOUT ADVOCACY?


Beata Klimkiewicz


Ethnic Minorities And Media In Poland:



The fledgling democracies of Eastern Europe have shown how quickly they learn from the West - or are able to lapse into their old traditions - when it comes to discriminating and assaulting Jews, Roma and Sinti (Gypsies), Third World workers, as well as their 'own' minorities.

Teun A.van Dijk ( "Elite Discourse and Racism", 14414k106o 1993:4)



As a result of political, economic and social changes, which took place in East-Central Europe in 1989, Polish media have been placed in a new situation. To understand transition of communication system, in which important role play also ethnic minorities as I will suggest further in the text, one must use the perspective of civil society and public sphere.

The idea of civil society emerged as a reinterpretation of the relationship between the state and society with strong impact on individualism/privacy, the market, pluralism and class (Giner 1985, Rau 1991, Goban-Klas,1994). In ideal terms, civil society is based on the equal rights of its individual members and on tolerance as a constitutive element of its normative framework. Heltai and Rau argue (Rau,1991:19), that a nation-state would not be able to provide a legal framework to protect these rights (especially those of ethnic minorities) in nonpartisan way. Therefore, civil societies could flourish in Eastern Europe only in the structure of neutral states.

One of the important institutional elements of civil society is public sphere. Jurgen Habermas conceptualizes the public sphere as the realm of social life where the exchange of information and views on question of common concern can take place so that public opinion can be formed (Dahlgren, 1995:8). Following Jurgen Habermas, Nicholas Garnham defines the public sphere as the network of media, educational knowledge and opinion-forming institutions within civil society whose operation is conducive to the emergence of public opinion as a political power (Garnham, 1986 in: Jakubowicz, 1993:155). Much the public sphere has been institutionally subsumed under the mass media, and as Peter Dahlgren emphasizes (Dahlgren, 1995: 155) the mass media - as institutions - in turn straddle the boundaries between the system levels of state/power and economy/money on the one hand, and civil society on the other".


My paper will illustrate how ethnic minority issues have been implemented in the framework within which communication policy operates. I will examine how a new public sphere in Poland have been formed from the perspective of ethnic diversity and which domain (common or advocacy) prevailed in different periods of transition. I will particularly explore the ways in which ethnic minorities may be related to the issues of access to and participation within the mainstream (common domain) and minority (advocacy domain) media. This purpose demands to look carefully also at representations of ethnic minorities (images and narratives) constructed by the mass media.



Who are the ethnic minorities in Poland and why they are an important phenomenon of implementing a new public sphere?



An ethnic minority can be understood as a part of national population that differs in ethnicity from predominant members of a population. According Abner Cohen ethnic group is a collectivity of people who

"(a) share some patterns of normative behaviour and (b) form a part of a larger population, interacting with people from other collectivities within the framework of a social system. The term ethnicity refers to the degree of conformity by members of the

collectivity to these shared norms in the course of social interaction". (Cohen,1976: ix)

At the same time, categorical ethnic distinctions do not depend on isolation, but do entail social processes of exclusion and incorporation whereby discrete categories are maintained despite changing participation and membership in the course of individual life histories (Barth, 1969:9).

Given such a definition, we can distinguish following ethnic minorities in Poland:

Ukrainians (300.000 - 0,78% of entire population), Belorussians (200.000 - 0,52%), Germans (200.000 - 0,52%), Roma /Gypsies (25.000 - 0,07%), Jews (15.000 - 0,04%), Ruthenians (15.000 - 0,04%), Lithuanians (15.000 - 0,04%), Slovaks (12.500 - 0,03%), Greeks and Macedonians (10.000 - 0,03%), Czechs (7.500 - 0,02%), Tatars (3.000 - 0,01%), others (10.000 - 0,03%). Within the total population of Poland (38.418.108) ethnic minorities represent approximately 2,12%. These figures from 1992 proposed by Janusz Bugajski (Bugajski, 1994:360) differ from statistics of Bogumila Berdychowska (Berdychowska, 1995) in following cases: Germans (Berdychowska proposes between 350.000 - 450.000), Jews (5.000 - 10.000), Belorussians (250.000 - 300.000).

In addition, among several million Polish Silesians in both Upper and Lower Silesia, a persistent sense of ethnic distinctiveness can be observed. 50.000 Poles posses Jewish ancestry. Some degree of regional identity is also found among Warmians and Mazurians in north-eastern Poland. And finally, an unknown, but significant number of refugees and immigrants mostly from the former Soviet Union, but recently also from Somalia, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and other countries have inhabited Poland since 1990.



There are two basic reasons why ethnic minority issues are important for constituing new public sphere in Poland:

The first is social memory through which the images of the past (ethnic tensions in interwar and in communist Poland), commonly legitimate a present social order (importance of national unity). The second is shift of Poland from the country of emigration to the country of increasing immigration.


Social memory is related to an implicit rule that participants in any social order must presupposed shared images of the past (Connerton,1989:3). Within Polish society, a cornerstone of such a shared memory is the emergence of the Polish State in 1918. At that time, Poland was multi-ethnic and multi-national: Ukrainians (3.878.000 - 14%), Jews (2.123.000 - 7,8%, the largest Jewish population in Europe), Belorussians (1.057.000 - 4%), Germans (1.036.000 - 3,8%) Lithuanians (72.000 - 0,3%) and others (210.000 - 1%) formed large minorities*. The new state however, was constructed along centralist rather than federalist lines: Warsaw applied a programme of assimilation and Polonization."This led sometimes to serious conflicts between the government and minority leaders aspiring to greater autonomy and self-determination, as well as inter-communal hostilities between Poles and non-Poles". (Bugajski, 1994:361). Under League of Nations provisions, Poland was required to sign a minorities treaty, which guaranteed ethnic minorities equal treatment and non-discrimination. Until 1945, ethnic minorities have published numerous ethnic and foreign-language newspapers and magazines. In 1937, a total of 2792 periodicals were published in Poland. Of these, 130 were printed in Yiddish and Hebrew, 125 in Ukrainian, 105 in German, 9 in Russian and 60 in other languages.

Poland was devastated by WW II and lost substantial population and territory. It also became extremly homogenized, with over 95% registered as ethnic Poles. The Jewish population was at large extent exterminated by the Nazis. The German people were forced to migrate to the West, beyond the Oder and the Neisse rivers. The loss of Poland's eastern territories to the Soviet Union eliminated also large numbers of Ukrainians and Belorussians. In addition, just after the WW II, 'pacification' of minorities became the main aim of the Polish communist's national policy. Accused of collaboration with anti-communist guerrillas, Ruthenians and Ukrainians from the south-eastern Poland were dispersed in the northern and western parts of the state during "Wisla " military action in 1947.


Later, 'pacification' changed to a policy of assimilation. The mass media conceived all of ethnic affairs and events as a taboo. The new communist administration did not officially recognize nationality as a demographic category and deliberately under-counted and under-estimated the size of minority groups (Bugajski,1994: 364). Since October 1956, national and ethnic minorities have been allowed to create their own press, but under the financial and political control of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. All the papers were obliged to promote a communist ideology. The famous motto of J.V.Stalin "nationalist in form, socialist in content" provided the 'ideal' platform for all the minority papers, which differed only by language, since the contents supposed to be the same. As Adam Rok points out "Jewish paper Folk-Sztyme did not differ from the press published in communist Poland (...) Its agenda was anti-zionistic along with the policy of the Polish Communist Party" (Rok, 1992:143) Similarly, Ukrainian Nasze Slowo did not addressed the topics charged by significant meaning for Ukrainian minority, such as religious problems, regionalism issues, increasing assimilation, history of Polish-Ukrainian relations, etc. Slovak monthly Zivot very prudently 'touched' on the claim for masses in Slovak language and cautiously mentioned a serious conflict in Nowa Biala village, where the catholic church was closed for seven years because of religious tensions. Zivot also promoted ethnically neutral 'Czechoslovakian socialist' culture instead of focusing on regional one (more relevant for the inhabitants of Spisz and Orawa regions). An 'official' press of German minority was not published at all.


In March 1968, a national paper Slowo Powszechne used the word Zionist. Trybuna Ludu identified Zionists as agents of Israel's government who were enemies of the Polish government and the Polish nation.(Goban-Klas, 1994: 134) Although the full truth about the causes of the March events and the power struggle is still unknown, it is obvious, that the student protest was used by the ruling party, which earlier had assumed control of the mainstream media, as proof of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy. By the end of 1968, two-thirds of Poland's remaining Jews had left. (Goban-Klas, 1994:138)

Assimilationist pressure increased once again during the 1970s, as the ruling party pursued its thesis of a single Polish nation. Cultural activities were curtailed as state funding was held back and Interior Ministry stiffened its controls. The minority newspapers extended content devoted to the Polish culture and covered nationally important cultural events. During the Solidarity era, in the early 1980s, there was some resurgence of minority activity as party lost its grip over various aspects of public life. As Janusz Bugajski points out,

several minorities sought to have their sociocultural associations transformed into politically representative bodies, demanded parliamentary seats, petitioned for greater access to the mass media, and claimed larger state funds for their publishing ventures.

(Bugajski,1994: 366).

In the end of 80s, the 'second circulation' of Ukrainian newspapers developed immensely, what in consequence, started the process of manifold transformation of Ukrainian press.


In June 1989 Poland held its first pluralistic elections in which the communists were defeated by the Solidarity movement and the first coalition government is formed in August 1989. The takeover of the structure of the state by the institutions of civil society enabled the independent political forces to address the main problems of the country, that is the nationality issue and the economic crisis (Rau, 1991:17) The 1989 was also a turning point in relation among minorities, media and Polish government. At that time, prime minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki, stated officially, that Poland is also a homeland to national and ethnic minorities. This was for the first time since WW II, when a prime minister recognized the multi-ethnic nature of Polish society. Minority affairs were removed from the jurisdiction of the Interior Ministry and placed under the control of a new office in the Ministry of Culture and Art. Other institutions were established to protect minority rights including a Commission for National and Ethnic Minorities in the Polish Parliament (Sejm) under the auspices of Solidarity deputies.



With the collapse of communism, Poland also became a country of immigration , mostly in the sense of 'transit migration' country to the West. Forced migration can be understood as a broader phenomenon, which includes not only refugee framework (as defined by the 1951 Convention) but also other forms of forced displacement, like migration of people affected by civil wars, by ecological disasters, inter-ethnic and religious tensions. One of such a form could be also economic migration, in sense of 'unfree labour', in which the capacity to freely dispose of labour power is overdetermined by series of political and legal restrictions. (Griffiths, 1990:6)

Civil wars in several post-communist states have brought a large variety of war refugees and displaced persons transiting Poland. In 1991 the number of asylum seekers from the former Soviet Union, particularly from areas of ethnic conflict, increased considerably. In 1993, incremental numbers of refugees and displaced persons from the former Yugoslavia continued transiting Poland. (IOM, 1994) 7000-10 000 persons were deported from Germany to Poland on the ground of Readmission Agreement in the 1996 and 3200 persons applied for asylum status in Poland. A considerable majority among them presented refugees from Somalia, India, Afganistan, Iraq, Sri Lanka, Armenia, Pakistan and Bangladesh. This has been the largest number of asylum seekers in comparison with previous years, when for instance in 1992 only 590 persons formally requested asylum (Seminar on Asylum, 1996).

Janusz Bugajski warns, that Poland would be hard pressed to accommodate large numbers of migrants and would fear that their presence could lead to economic crisis and social instability and even aggravate inter-ethnic relations and anti-foreigner sentiments (Bugajski, 1994:366) Until now, Polish authorities have not decided to adopt detailed regulations on refugees, such as were adopted in Czechoslovakia in 1990. According to the article 10 of the Aliens Act, the decision on granting asylum in Poland can be taken by the Minister of Interior after consultation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. A detailed consultation procedure has not been established in law. A foreigner can apply for refugee status within the meaning of the 1951 Convention, which is directly referred to in the Aliens Act.

Neither the Aliens Act currently in force, nor the draft act provide for a special category of de facto refugees. De facto refugee status protects a large number of refugees, who are unable or unwilling to obtain recognition of the 1951 Convention status, or are unable or unwilling for valid reasons to return to their country of origin. (Voutira,, 1996:57) In Poland the lack of such a category in law, led to various tensions at the end of 1993, when the UNHCR stopped providing aid for war refugees from the former Yugoslavia. The Polish Red Cross did not have the financial means to provide humanitarian aid, and the Ministry of the Interior was unwilling to help because the persons in question were not entitled to refugee status within the 1951 Convention definition.(Czaplinski, 1994:639)

Until now, the mainstream media have hardly described new ethnicities which forced migration caused; they also have not explored inter-ethnic relations between the Poles and new immigrants. The point of maximum focus became the issue of illegal immigration and restriction of asylum policies of the Polish government.



The public sphere as one of the most important components of civil society is constituted in the active reasoning of the public - it is via such discourse that public opinion about the ethnic minorities is generated and enriched by the minority views, which in turn is to shape the ethnic policies of the state and development of society as actually operates. The recent development of public sphere in Poland has been influenced by two contradictory trends: particularization and universalisation.



The Bill on the Annulation of the Law on Control of Publications and Performances, the Abolition of its Control Organs and the Change of the Press Law come into force on the 11 April 1990. It declared the definitive abolition of censorship in Poland, what in consequence contributed to considerable increase of media particularization. When one of the main administrative units of the Office of Control of the Press, Publications and Public Performances - RSW (The Worker's Publishing Cooperative) has been liquidated, new guidelines on the privatization of the property (titles, publishing houses, etc) were set down. Despite the criticism advanced against the project of liquidation and the subsequent privatization of the RSW property, this did compromise at the time one of the most far-reaching and successful privatization projects in Poland. (Giorgi, 1995:80) The years following the Round Table discussions saw the proliferation of many new titles. In the period between June 1990 and December 1992 there were an average of 100 new titles being registered each month. Of these many actually never got off the ground.

The trend of particularization involved also the emergence of ethnic minority media and after a period of deep-freeze in communism, also a visible interest on the part of mainstream media to address ethnic minority issues freely for the first time since WW II. Among 42 registered papers of ethnic minorities in Poland, 32 (76%) have been published since the end of 80-ies! Some ethnic minorities, such as Ruthenians, or Romas started to publish their own papers for the first time since WW II (for example, Rrom Po Drom - the paper of Polish Romas founded in 1990 or Ruthenian Besida founded in 1989)! As Marek Pacholczyk stresses,

"Democratization of political system in Poland, abolition of censorship and liquidation of political supervision on activity of minority organizations enabled Ukrainians to speak

with their own voice" (Pacholczyk, 1993:140)

From June 1989 the following Ukrainian papers have appeared on the press market: Lystok Myrjan, Holka, Osnowy, Myrjanin, Swiczado, Widryzka, Blahowist, Dialog, Homin, Miz Susidami, Nad Buhom i Narwoju, Preremyski Dzwony, Sustreczy, Plastowy Wisnyk. Similarly, 9 papers of German minority have appeared since 1989 (among them Hoffnung, Oberschlesise Zeitung, Mittelungs-Blatt der Deutschen Minderheit, etc).


At the same time, the process of market economy transition has imposed new, more uniformed and ethnically unified mass media contents for the purpose of reaching the largest possible audience at the expense of a culturally heterogeneous and multi-ethnic society. Privatization has been followed by concentration of media ownership with consequent narrowing of interests and results in homogenization of cultural products. Increasing technical sophistication facilitating the reproduction and transmission of information (satellite RMF Radio, television companies PolSat and Polonia) has not had a comparable effect in extending access to information. Programmes about ethnic minorities have been produced only by national Polish Television. It is a cruel irony indeed, that its regional branches lack in turn appropriate technical equipment. (Slovaks living in the mountainous Spisz and Orawa regions for example, cannot reach TV Krakow which produces documentaries about the Slovak minority).

Defining a new public sphere, Polish theorists of mass communication have mainly focused on its economic features and described transition of communication system in free-market terms, not in terms of pluralism. Angela Spindler-Brown suggests, that in post-communist reality, the privatization of the press and broadcasting has not brought diverse pluralistic media. On the contrary the range, coverage and quality, as perceived by readers are deteriorating. The only innovation provided by the market is the emergence of 'boulverad' type newspapers (not in tabloid size) offering titillation and saturation advertising. (Spindler-Brown, 1994:532). Hence, one can raise an important issue of marketization and nationalization of public sphere in developing East-European democracies.

What is at stake is whether people's identities as citizens can largely be reduced to and framed in consumer terms or whether some sense of the political - beyond market logics - can be retained in people's conception of citizenship? (Dahlgren, 1995: 23)



Both of these tendencies - particularization and universalisation - are in tension and act simultaneously. The more a society is integrated and united around the fundamental values of the existing social order, the more likely it is to have just one public sphere. The more divided it is , the greater is the likelihood of the various groups within it creating institutions of will- and opinion - formation constituing different public spheres, taking fundamentally different stands on the legitimacy of the prevailing social order. (Jakubowicz;1993:155, Negt and Kluge 83, Downing 84). Similarly, Dahlgren poses a question of whether there is a need to argue for a single large pluralistic public sphere which connects many smaller discrete arenas or whether one posits that multiplicity of many smaller public spheres is what constitutes the public sphere as a whole. (Dahlgren, 1995: 18)

Poland before 1989 had according to Karol Jakubowicz, three public spheres: the official public sphere - since at least 1956, alternative one, connecetd to the Roman Catholic Church and opposition public sphere since 1976. (Jakubowicz, 1993: 158) Jakubowicz further considers three possible processes relating to the development of new public sphere(s) in Poland:

1. If a national consensus on the shape of the new social order can be worked out (...) then the reasons for the existence of different public spheres no longer apply,

2. If the new order proves as divisive as the old one, then at least 2 public spheres - the official and the opposition one will emerge out of the present process of change.,

3. (...) Differences of opinion concerning the best ways of overcoming Poland's crisis will be so deep (...), that they will feed the contineud existence of different public spheres.
(Jakubowicz, 1993:172)

Jakubowicz seems however to support the first variant, or in other words, one universal and integrated public sphere: One day, when society does become integrated and united around the fundamental values of the transformed, democratic and prosperous social order, Poland may end up having only one public sphere to speak of. (Jakubowicz, 1993:172) Within applying such a variant one peril appears in Poland - indeed, the communication-policy reasoning is dominated by that of national rather than of individual rights. Thus, the foundation myths of Polish nation-state become important in shaping the formal, and popular understanding of the relation between ethnic minorities and the 'imagined community' of the Polish nation. In reality, 'ethnic diversity' has always been a problem to the homogenizing agenda of Polish nationalism. But at the same time, an invented Polish heritage, a canonical cultural repertoire, never denied regional and ethnic minority cultures, although it forced its representation of elite culture as culture tout court.



Dahlgren proposes a different way in which to look at the public sphere - through the common and the advocacy domain. Dahlgren understands the common domain as the arena which strives for universalism. It is built mostly from the dominant media, which ideally provide information, debate and opinion for all members of society. The common domain basically reflects the liberal tradition of the media serving citizens in an impartial manner. (Dahlgren, 1995:156)

Advocacy domain would be setting for all citizens who wish to pursue special interests, and generate group-based cultural and political interpretation of society. It would serve partly as alternative and oppositional public spheres for different groups allowing them not only to air and shape their own views, but also to develop their group identities. The advocacy domain consists partly of time and space made available within the mainstream media and partly of smaller 'civic media' from political parties, interest groups, movements, organizations and networks.(Fraser 1992, Dahlgren 1995)

I will use this framework further in the text in examining, how ethnic minority issues are implemented in the formation of new public sphere in Poland.





What most people know about other ethnic groups is based on images and narratives constructed by the media. Even those who live and work in multi-ethnic environments learn to see each other in these terms. Representation of ethnic minorities can be concerned with how topics about them are presented, which modes of discourse are at work, and what character have debates and discussion . In empirical terms the concern is largely with journalism, as it is broadly understood. (Dahlgren, 1995: 15)

As Dahlgren assumes, the dimension of representation in the public sphere points to such basic questions as WHAT should be selected for portrayal and HOW should it be presented. According to him, the criteria relating to media representations should only have an 'until further notice' character since they must respond to an ever-changing social reality. (Dahlgren,1995: 15)

The main problem encountered by Polish journalists after 1989 was how they were going to depict and describe ethnic minorities that have emerged in new political discourse. As an information gap needed to be filled with basic data, the journalists broadly asserted that ethnic, national and religious minorities exist in Poland and that state policy towards them (which was a taboo in the times of the communist regime) has to be changed. This urgency however, caused also counter action - journalistic response to the minority issues addressed the 'tip of iceberg' only. A new public sphere needs new journalism. For longer period, the only book which offered teaching methods and techniques of journalism in a 'pluralist society' has been World Press Freedom Committee's Handbook for Journalists of Central and Eastern Europe published in Washington in 1991. The know-how- projected by the book sees the relationships between market, democratic ideas, political structures and the practices of contemporary media as unproblematical. Furthermore, as Angela Spindler-Brown suggests, the handbook seems to believe in a direct causal relationship between privatized media and independent democratic and pluralistic communication. (Spindler-Brown, 1994:531) Thus, the new public sphere (in terms of journalistic practice), becomes covered almost exclusively by a common domain narrowed to market and privatization. But this does not assure, that people will exercise their full rights as citizens participating in public sphere. Ethnic minorities in Poland feel in particular, that they are neglected by the mainstream media. Even more, they find the meager media coverage concentrating on the 'wrong' events or on topics of their minor interest.

Murdock distinguishes 3 important ways in which the communications system is implemented in the constitution of citizenship. One of them says:

[In order for people to exercise their full rights as citizens] they must be able to recognize themselves and their aspirations in the range of representations on offer within

the central communications sectors and be able to contribute to developing and extending

these representations." (in :Husband, 1994: 6).

Nevertheless, there have been different styles of depicting the ethnic minorities in Poland, that stemmed mostly from how the journalists saw, defined and interpreted the ethnic event.

I will isolate 3 cases as representative of the different types of images and narratives of ethnic minorities in the Polish mainstream media, conceptualized and categorized on the basis of discourse analysis of newspaper and TV reports and interviews with the journalists and ethnic minority members.




Our sense who we are to ourselves and to others takes on relevance for the public sphere because it shapes the way in which we participate, and may well determine if we participate or not. (Dahlgren, 1995:23)

Until recently, Slovaks hardly appeared in Polish mainstream media. The new urge for minorities brought journalists among them doing features on the most distinct signs of their life: language, folklore, institutions. However these representations remained one-dimensional in depicting Slovak identity as mutually exclusive to Polish ethnic identity. Ethnicity was described as an unalterable fact of life determined at birth, but not as a matter of negotiation between self-identity and imagined communities.

In doing so, journalists also remained insensitive to the complexities of minority issues most of which entail not a mutually exclusive choice between either Pole or Slovak, but more often than not especially among members of the 2nd generation the choice is neither/nor or both (Eriksen, 1993).Controversial questions arise: is a Slovak essence shaping all 'Slovak experiences'? Is there only 'one' legitimate Slovak experience?

The older people living in Orawa region finds a division into Slovaks, Poles and Orawians as clear and exclusive. The youngsters, on the contrary, embrace different cultures without an internal dissonance. In addition, all of them when watching TV or reading newspapers employ a number of selective filters, which reflect, for example, their age, gender and class. (Husband, 1994:10)

The only image of Slovaks, journalists were willing to depict ( fitting to preferences of their imagined, ethnically unified audience) was: distinct (essential Slovak) and weak (needs our help).

"We seem to be oversensitive" - said Augustyn Andraszak, the leader of ethnic Slovaks, for Gazeta Krakowska - "But when the strongest beats the weakest, the lattes shouts very loudly to be heard". This metaphor quoted often by media fixed certain images, which the majority have already accepted. A clear distinction between "us" and "them" enabled to display ethnic minority in ways favourable to dominant group. "Conquered" ethnic events became a subordinate part of the common domain, being deprived of encountering contradictory images.


There are many minority voices normally excluded from the mainstream media that are allowed to speak in times of crisis. But in times of crisis the media do structure these voices in a hierarchy of legitimation that is a product of the dominant value system (Fiske, 1994: 484) In June 1991 in the Polish town of Mlawa, a teenage Roma driver ran over two young pedestrians. One of them, a boy, died, and the other, a girl, was crippled as a result. Two days after the accident a group of local people attacked the Roma people who lived in Mlawa. Several houses were burnt down, many people have been injured. The press reported that the reason for the pogrom was the fact that the driver had fled the scene and was still at large thanks to the fact that his parents had bribed the police and public prosecutor. In fact, the driver's father had himself taken his son to the police.

Journalists (mostly from regional and local newspapers) presented the accident committed by the young Roma in terms of the social problems the Roma community creates for the Polish majority. At the same time, they gave a possible social explanation of the pogrom: a furious majority population reacted to the sleaze (in fact imagined). The power over discourse became a material one: the note that the father of the young driver paid a bribe was also the power to put those engaged in it into prison and to know that prison was the solution to the problem. (Fiske, 1994: 472). Thus, for example, the weekly Polityka (32/1991, pp 10) publishes an article entitled 'A Gypsy is guilty'.

Visualizing minority-majority relations as conflictive and tense, the journalists chose in both the cases irrelevant background information of the ethnic event: the crime committed by the young Roma had only bad consequences, while the crime perpetrated by Polish majority had "rational reasons". Granted exclusively to majority, such an advantage to explain causes of negative occurrences demonstrates the priority of dominant discourse and consequently, it deprives the particular ethnic group of the opportunity to place alternative images of itself before others.


In the television, Ruthenians are shown as bare-footed peasants living in primitive wooden cottages. They can sing, play on strange old instruments, but never drive Western cars or run enterprises. Piotr Trochanowski, Ruthenian poet and journalist

As soon as a journalist has found out, that there is nothing exotic about the protestant church in Poland, he simply refuses to write anything about us. Adam Kleszczynski, priest

Since recognizing Ruthenian minority by Polish media, depiction of Ruthenian life has been reduced to the level of folklore. Cultural differences and especially cultural deviance were explained in terms of assumed cultural properties of the Ruthenians. Turning distinctness into curiosity and exoticism deprived the Ruthenians of being a partner with whom majority could have normal relations based on disagreement, defense, rivalry, criticism or support.

At the same time, the fact that journalists did not find the protestant minority sufficiently exotic has lead to their invisibility in the Polish media; the protestants were simply ignored. By and large, exoticism strongly supports ostensibly bold thesis that the common domain largely prevails in Polish public sphere.


In sum, essentialism, negativism and exoticism evoke in part the discussion above on universalistic versus particularistic discourse rules in media representations; regardless of possible inherent suppressive aspects of the dominant modes of political communications, if one does not have access to them or at least to their translatable equivalence, one is excluded from processes of democratic participation. (Dahlgren, 1995: 19) And to have access does not mean to be an object for investigation only. The public sphere is not just a marketplace of information, in which a'bad story' about the ethnic minorities will be sold well. It is also main societal space for creation and distribution of culture, which gives meaning to our identities and thus, forms our vision of pluralistic democracy.



As active participants in the public sphere (viewers, readers, journalists, actors, eye-witneses) we always have to balance our identities as citizens, which implies some sort of universality and commitment to a 'civic culture' with the particular ethnic identities which are related to pursuing specific interests. In the TV Krakow a documentary programme has appeared, whose authors put in its agenda both the advocacy and common domain. The weekly magazine U siebie (Being at home) was originally established in 1991 as a TV program devoted to ethnic minorities in the Polish National Television. Since 1994, it has taken on a documentary form in the regional branch of national broadcasting in Krakow. Until nowadays, it has been shot in localities where the minorities currently live. Additionaly, and quite importantly, people from these groups have taken part in its production. Establishing a framework of U siebie, its producers could not pass over the question of the language it should be broadcast on: What language to use? The language as a means of communication, or a language as a means of expression of ethncic identity? They chose a compromise: Polish with fragments of native languages in everyday communication, songs, poetry and masses. The reason underlying such a decision was to avoid isolation of ethnic minorities and eliminate its division from the surrounding community. Krzysztof Krzyzanowski, one of its editors mentioned that , it does not suffice if a certain ethnic group with its TV images and narratives is perceived only in its own community. Hence, the purpose of the magazine has been to involve the other minorities to compare their own situation with what they see on the screen.



A crucial issue relating to transformation of public sphere in Poland within the framework of ethnicity is the recognition of the power of the media to promote ideologies of domination and subordination through their representation of immigrants, and thus, through the construction of the definition of the situation within which ethnic diversity in society should be understood. (Husband 1994, van Dijk, 1991).

To illustrate how the phenomenon of forced migration is portrayed in the Polish mainstream media, I will implicate some general comments derived from discourse analysis of the news reports in one of the major Polish newspapers Rzeczpospolita from June - December 1996 (a period of big influx of refugees to Poland). By and large, the degree to which the policy promoted by the political elites is compatible with the position promoted through the newspaper narratives vis-a-vis the foreigners and asylum seekers, is very high. In other words, ideologically framed immigration script followed by news reports in Rzeczpospolita, has very similar structure as asylum policy agenda of Polish government. This immigration script has some significant features:

First of all, the points of maximum visibility and turbulence for the journalists of Rzeczpospolita are: crime (with special emphasis on smuggling refugees from the East to Germany and criminal activities in cross-border movement), illegal immigration and repatriation of Polish communities from the East.

Second, the images of asylum-seekers and refugees are created with the following presuppositions: asylum seekers and refugees are seldom the agents of positive or neutral action in the Rezeczpospolita. If they are agents, they mostly commit crimes (including illegal immigration) . They are almost never defined by journalists as refugees, even if the majority of them still waits for decision on refugee status. The significant token of 'exclusive' image of displaced people is also to emphasize their negative properties (arrested, captured, smuggled, filling the prisons, concealed, applying for refugee status to avoid deportation, etc ) which stand in contrast with good qualities of the police and immigration authorities. The journalists fix also another distinction produced by asylum policy agenda - distinction between refugee/migrant. In the media images, one part of this distinction - refugee - is typically counterposed and hence defined against the other - migrant. The implication is, that Rzeczpospolita allows to show only the images of refugees which fit very well to the images projected by policy makers - hungry, poor, victims, vulnerable. One, who does not meet these features is simply classified as illegal immigrant, and terefore criminal. And finally, only foreigners with residence permits are given the privilege of appearing in Rzeczpospolita in other roles than those of criminals or victims, though even their images are displayed in ways favoure to journalists or policy makers (guests, representatives of exotic cultures).

Third, Rzeczpospolita legitimises and down-grades particular asylum policies. Among the legitimised are mostly restrictionist policies: immediate expulsion of transit migrants discovered in Poland, expulsion after readmission of refugees from Germany, arresting and detention of refugees in prisons, narrow definition of refugee status (according to 1951 Convention) and hence all its practical consequences. Among those down-graded are: long asylum determination procedure, non-refoulment, improvement of asylum-seekers' protection, including to additional categories of refugees - in orbit, de facto, sur place, and in transit - in the new Aliens' Act, debated recently by the Polish Parliament.

In sum, such a representation of forced migration in one of the biggest Polish dailies intercedes for exclusion of the advocacy domain from public sphere. By using of immigration script, the journalists operate within dominant discourse and hardly leave a space for presenting alternative views brought up by immigrants and asylum-seekers themselves.





Being outside the mainstream media system, minority media do not possess universal range and tend to be strictly associated with ethnic or religious communities. Since they pursue special interests: fighting for minority rights, strengthening ethnic identity and making it visible; they lie in an advocacy rather than in common domain of the public sphere. Hence, their position within communication system can indicate the degree to which the advocacy domain has developed within the public sphere. The opportunities open to ethnic minority media depend to an enormous extent on the communication and ethnic policy of the state. The years 1989-1992 saw a genuine breakthrough in the approach to minorities in Poland. The government of Tadeusz Mazowiecki applied the principle of cultural pluralism in which minority media were not only tolerated but also supported. Existing periodicals were no longer supervised or censored. (Klimkiewicz,1997: 51) Bogumila Berdychowska, director of the Office for National Minorities in the Ministry of Culture and Art characterized that policy in Gazeta Wyborcza (5/12/1994): We assumed that minority periodicals should be specially protected, since they are surrogate cultural institutions, they are centers of community life and the forge of the minority's elite.



New conditions within the state brought a new agenda to the minority media in Poland. The term news agenda usually refers to a ranking of the importance that is attached to public events. The possession of the means of media production helps to give a minority the power to set its own priorities in terms of gathering information and whereby to allocate resources so that more stories are kept before the public. (Riggins,1992: 283) Thus in the agenda of the Ukrainian press, the following 'new' issues were put: evaluating of the recent minority policy of the state, challenging the stereotyp of the Ukrainian, claim for the national institution dealing with ethnic minority issues, demanding of the political system guaranteeing Ukrainians representation in the Polish Parliament and the local governments and religious issues (almost entirely omitted by the previous Ukrainian press) (Pacholczyk,1993: 140)

Similarly, Jewish Dos Yidishe Worth set up an alternative agenda vis-a-vis mainstream press: fight against antisemitism in Poland, reminding of Jewish tragedy during WW II, promoting of cultural heritage of Polish Jews. This agenda has been challenged in Jewish society itself by the periodical Jidele published by Jewish youngsters. As Adam Rok subsumed it: Youth of Jidele more easy identifies with Israeli culture than with culture of the Jewish diaspora in Poland. It is similar to youth of other countries for which the world of Yiddish has definitely died". (Rok, 1993: 147) Jidele rather than posing themes of history or tradition concentrates strongly on Jewish identity: Who is a Jew? What does it mean to identify with a Jewish culture? Facing the reality of multiple Jewish experiences, enables the Jews (young and older as well) develop diverse agendas for unification, taking into account the specificity and diversity of who they are. Slovak Zivot also implemented new points: regional issues, exchange of culture, trade, tradition and social activity over the Polish-Slovakian border, double citizenship. It has also addressed an alternative evaluation of national and local policy vis-a-vis euroregions; Zivot mostly referred to Euroregion of Tatra Mountains (settled also by Slovak population) which has been constituted without Slovak minority participation in its political structures.



The promising start of particularization of public sphere was retained by several factors, one of which was due to changed policy of the Office for National and Ethnic Minorities in the Ministry of Culture and Art. In spring 1995, the vice-minister of culture, Michal Jagiello stated:

We have turned from deserving minorities upon deserving minority cultures. However the support for 'minority cultures' has been reduced to the support for some cultural events and to the level of folklore. Thus, the Ministry of Culture and Art has supported minority culture festivals (Ukrainian and Ruthenian 'Watra', the Festival of Roma culture in Gorzow, etc), which could be favorably presented by the national media. As Charles Husband points out, the celebration of a people's capacity for resistance can too easily contribute to a willing avoidance of engaging with the specific realities of their contemporary subordination. (Husband, 1994: 13) Thus, where state develops ethnic minority media strategies, there is a need to monitor the role of the state in specifying the ethnic categories that are recognized within its policies. These may privilege specific identities and operate with imposed conceptions of ethnic identities that are functionally meaningless for those located within them.(Husband, 1994: 11) As shown, in Poland, the category - ethnic minority has been subsumed by definition of minority culture.

The total number of active titles in Poland lies anywhere between 3,500 and 4,500. From this, 53 titles of ethnic and religious minorities were registered in the Catalogue of Polish Press 1994. Ethnic minorities publish or cooporate in publishing or producing of 42 titles, which is only 1% of total number of newspaper titles in Poland. If we compare it with 2,5% of ethnic minority population (number which does neither cover new ethnic groups caused by immigration and illegal immigrants, nor regional minorities), we can easily infer, that ethnic minorities are underrepresented in public sphere in Poland and no means has been applied to strenghten the advocacy domain within which they operate in the public sphere. Ukrainian minority, deprived of an appropriate financial aid from the state, again found itself vis-a-vis threat of its national identity - writes the researcher on Ukrainian press, Marek Pacholczyk . (Pacholczyk, 1993:140)

Regional branches of the Polish National Radio broadcast few programs in Ukrainian ( in Bialystok, Koszalin, Olsztyn, Rzeszow, Sczecin), Belorussians (in Bialystok), German (in Katowice, Opole). There are no programs in other languages. Only the German and the Ukrainian minority produce TV program in their own language. The Oberschlesien Journal (Upper Silesian Journal) lasts approximately 30 minutes, is shot in Opole and broadcast by Katowice Television twice a month. Ukrainian Telenoviny (TV News) is shot in Warsaw and broadcast twice a month.

At present, the Office for National and Ethnic Minorities finances one journal for for each minority associated in its own organization and registered at the Ministry of Culture and Art. Many of these, were founded or published in the 50-ies under the supervision of the communist government (among them: Belorussian Niwa - 1956, Ukrainian Nasze Slowo - 1956, Slovak Zivot - 1956, Lithuanian Ausra - 1960, Jewish Folk-Sztyme - 1946).

On one hand, new agenda has developed in the minority press, on the other hand new peril has appeared with implementation of state communication and minority policy: Restricting report attention to one aspect of a minority life (culture) in the newspapers can lead to intellectual ghettoization. The newness of information offered by minority press can be exhausted very quickly in small ethnic communities. Much of the information presented to the public could be already known to them. This practice curtails the possibility of productively interacting on an equal footing with other ethnic groups, whether majority or minority.(Riggins, 1992) This could be challenged only by the creation of the advocacy domain supporting multiperspective journalism which counters the prevailing understanding that there is only one version of what constitutes truth or reality and only one way to talk about it. In terms of representation, the advocacy status of minority media means that they will be portraying the world in ways which may differ from the canons of professional journalism.(Dahlgren, 1995:159) In any case, the public sphere in Poland cannot be based only on the common domain as far as it is reasoned by civil society. Marketization and nationalization of the communication system does not assure pluralism and individual rights of all citizen within the state.


By and large, the public sphere in Poland has been transformed along pluralistic purposes shortly after June 1989. This first stage of formation of new public sphere has been however replaced by processes of universalisation, which in consequence, made the media more remote and immune to input from civil society. State's attempt to define a national identity and culture in universalistic terms has helped to maintain a problematic ethnic hegemony in Poland. Particularization contributing to establishing of new minority media has been retained. Assessing media discourses about ethnic minorities showed, that despite the rhetoric in favour of minorities and the recognition of multi-ethnic character of Polish society, in fact the representation in the mainstream media promotes assimilation into the dominant culture - Polish.

The public sphere in Poland must remain a target for change. The removal of discrimination within a common domain dominated by mainstream media, a creation of an advocacy domain and permeable interface between both of them are basic requirements of the media industry transformation in democratic Poland. In addition, the public sphere with its two domains cannot be seen as a fait accompli but remains an ongoing political accomplishment, inseparable from the task of the double democratization of civil society and the state. (Dahlgren,1995: 159) In short, its boundaries must remain open and contestable.




*These figures come from corrected census of population conducted by Polish authorities on 30th of September 1921 (Horak, 1958:182)


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