Polish State Radio Faces Boycott After Censoring Political Song

(Bloomberg) -- Poland’s state radio broadcaster censored a song ridiculing the country’s political leader, prompting artists to call for boycotts of the station and stoking comparisons with communist-era crackdowns on free speech.

The conflict began when aging punk rocker Kazik Staszewski’s new single, lampooning ruling party chairman Jaroslaw Kaczynski, topped the weekly chart of most popular songs on state-run public radio.

Polish State Radio Faces Boycott After Censoring Political Song

The radio network swiftly deleted the weekly rankings from its website, accused the Top 30 program of manipulating the rankings. The host, who had run the show for 35 years, quit in protest.

“Your pain is better than mine,” Staszewski sings about Kaczynski’s visit of his family graves at a time when a government-ordered virus lockdown forbid Poles from making any non-essential trips. “You can soothe the pain alone, everyone else is too poor. One, two limousines, the whole cemetery is yours. Better than mine.”

Some of the country’s biggest artists called for a boycott of public radio’s Trojka channel while ruling party officials criticized Staszewski and denied suggestions that the broadcaster was censoring criticism.

‘Demolition of Culture’

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki defended Kaczynski’s cemetery visit after it dominated newspapers’ front pages, adding that the incident was an unwelcome distraction to his cabinet’s coronavirus relief efforts. The country is expected to hold a presidential election in June or July.

Last month, the U.S. ambassador to Warsaw defended a Polish television network owned by Discovery Inc. after it was targeted by public broadcasters following a negative report about Kaczynski.

Media freedom advocacy group Reporters Without Borders said in its annual report that “partisan discourse and hate speech are still the rule” in Polish state media, warning about a rapid decline in press freedoms. The ruling Law & Justice party has also been repeatedly sued by the European Union for subjecting courts to more political control.

“If politics is more important than music, if a song brings back the worst communist practices that I only know from books and stories, then I think my songs shouldn’t be played” on Trojka, pop star Dawid Podsiadlo said on Facebook. “This is another demolition of culture.”

Staszewski said he won’t comment on the issue. His song had over 5 million views on YouTube after being released on May 8.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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