Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Polish version of those cartoons?

Insult religious feeling in Poland and you get six months community service.

In 2003, installation artist Dorota Nieznalska was convicted under Section 196 of the Penal Code, which prohibits 'offending religious sentiment'. The heinous offence relates to when the artist, for twelve months in 2001/2002, exhibited at the experimental Wyspa Gallery, Gdansk, a work called Passion (pictured above). According to the piece consisted of:

…A photograph of a fragment of a naked male body, including the genitalia, together with the projection of an image of a man’s face in the course of a hard training exercise. The artist has concerned herself for several years with the problem of maleness and of the connection of its models with the Christian paradigm of culture. This work was a natural extension of this trend.

I should mention that the image was projected on a cross. Ooops!

Though arty critics may have just loved it (installations are still cool, apparently), for the Christian-nationalist League of Polish Families – who forced their way into gallery after they heard about Passion in the media - this was clearly blasphemous and an insult to Catholicism and Poland.

On 18 July, 2003, the judge agreed and sentenced Nieznalska to half a year community service, and a criminal record.

The artist is appealing against the conviction and the case is still going through the courts.

The Wyspa Gallery, which has been showing ‘challenging’ work since 1985, was forced to close down. comments:

The conviction of Dorota Nieznalska on the charge of insulting religious feelings is shocking proof that the fundamental statute of the Polish Republic is not respected in a country which until recently seemed to be a symbol of freedom. The principle of the freedom of expressing one’s views has been totally violated and has made the artist a victim of an ideologised vision of a religious state, which the League of Polish Families is attempting to impose on Polish society.

The PiS government is 100 days old today. What has been most characteristic, so far, of the new regime has been developments which seem to show that the League of Polish Families is not the only party to share the vision of a new Polsh constitution with Catholicism playing the moral foundation of the state.

Using the law as a way of stopping the media offend anyone has not been limited to works of art. See here, here and here.

More? See Dorota Nieznalska web page


sonia said...

Six months of community service? You Poles still have a LONG WAY to go before you catch up with Iranians, where such a blasphemy would be punishable by death.

Anyway, she will probably appeal to the European court and have the sentence reduced or overturned...

beatroot said...

But Sonia. Six months community service for something which someone, somewhere, finds offensive! Just imagine what it would be like for us bloggers if Google or could close our sites down because Misses L.R.Silverbottom of South Carolina found something we said offensive.

They'd have to shut down the blogophere!

roman said...

Dzien Dobry,
I am glad to see that some Poles still know the difference between responsible journalism and totally unrestrained freedom of the press.
Freedom of the press should never include the right to irresponsible provocation which has a high probability to lead to rioting and/or death. Who did not know that the Muhammad cartoons would ultimately lead to this outcome? Death and violence could have been prevented by sensible and responsible journalism.
What were the Danes thinking?

Bialynia said...

This makes me ill.

beatroot said...

Dzien dobry, Roman.

If someone goes and kills a journalist in another country that he has never even heard of before because he thinks that he has insulted an idea that he has, then that someone is a bit of a nutter and will kill someone, someday anyway. Normal, well balanced people do not act that way.

And there is a difference between responsible journalism and a law that forces responsible journalism. I think the Danish editor is guilty of irresponsible journalism, but we should defend the right to be irresponsible and to be offensive.

The religious should not be made a special case, and adults do not need protecting from things that might upset them. I should have the right to insult what you believe, just as you should have the right to insult what I believe.

That's how we treat grown ups.

roman said...

I agree that freedom of the press should be a right and as adults we should be able to give and receive, in like, criticism of our beliefs. I also agree that a murdering zealot who kills due to a provocative article written that insults his religion should be treated like any other criminal and be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
My point is that knowing fully the consequences of similar provocative publications (Newsweek - the Qur'an flushed down the toilet- which was unproven speculation but was reported as fact) caused rioting and death in the predominantly Islamic counties not long ago.
Should not have the Danish newspaper's editorial board have pondered this and foreseen a similar catastrophy? They are, I assume, thinking adults and capable of predicting a possible negative outcome of such a publication.
I am not advocating a criminal action against the Danish editor but he should be, at the very least, admonished or fired by the newspaper for incompetence and the newspaper should issue a formal apology.
It is evident that the far-reaching consequences we see developing could have been avoided by simply doing the right thing. The right thing is that an editor's responsibility is to weigh the impact of what is proposed to be published and decide on how it will be accepted by the public at large. This editor fell far short of this responsibility.
Dobranocz :)

beatroot said...

Henry - the problem of maleness? haven;t you heard that we men are just a bunch of kids, who never do anything around the hourse except sit berping in front of the television watching football?

Roman - If you were an editor and you wanted to print something on principle but knew that the consequences were that some nutcase would threaten to kill you, what would you do?

Me, being a coward, I would probably not publish. But6 a braver journalist would.

A principle is a principle. Freedom of speech is not up for negociation...