President decides to sign anti-defamation bill into law

Polish President Andrzej Duda on Tuesday announced he has taken the decision to sign into law the anti-defamation bill and direct it to the Constitutional Tribunal.

The president said that after analysing the situation and the proposed provisions, he has decided to sign into law the bill amending the law on the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) - The Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation, the so-called anti-defamation bill.

President Duda added that he will turn to the Constitutional Tribunal to examine whether the freedom of speech is not limited in an unauthorized manner by the provisions of the amended law.

"I think that this is a solution that on one hand secures Polish interests (...), our dignity, historical truth, that we should be judged in a fair way in the world and that we as a state and a nation should not be slandered, but on the other hand, also takes into account the sensitivity of those for whom the issue of historical memory and the memory of the Holocaust is extremely important, above all for those who survived and who should tell the world, while they still can, how they remember those times and about what they have gone through," Duda said.

The president stressed that the Poles did not take part in any institutionalised or systemic way in the Holocaust.

"One must protect the good name of Poland and Poles, it is also a question of our sensitivity," Duda said justifying his decision. "We also have the right to be sensitive, we also have the right to historical truth and we also have the right to be judged in tune with facts," stressed the president.

Referring to Israel's doubts that the amended law allegedly leads to the denial of historical truth and interference in research and artistic works, the president stressed that in his opinion, "such a situation can not arise, especially from the first part of article 55A," of the law. He went on to say that "as president, I am inclined to accept that these doubts should be clarified (...)."

President Duda pointed out that the IPN bill is nothing new and that he discussed the legislation in Israel over a year ago. He pointed out that there was then an expectation from the Israeli side that the proposed law would not inhibit academic research or artistic activities.

"Such a provision was made," Andrzej Duda stressed, observing that the expectation of Jewish communities was met by the Polish lawmakers drafting the law.

The president noted the "very big discussion" which recently broke out around the proposed amendment to the IPN Act passed by the Polish parliament. As he pointed out, it is discussed not only in Polish public and political space, but also in the international arena. He also admitted that the topic has an impact on the relations between Poland and Israel, between Poles and Jews, and that it also affects Polish-US relations.

Duda argued that the anti-defamation bill concerns "the extremely painful and delicate issue related to the martyrdom of the Polish nation." "During World War II, nearly 6 million Polish citizens were killed, including about three million citizens of Polish Jewish nationality," President Duda said on Tuesday.

The Polish president declared that building good relations between Poland and Israel "is close to his heart". He stressed that the history of World War II "above all is the most painful for Israel", adding that "he is full of respect for this great memory and pain". "Building good relations between Poland and Israel is very close to my heart. We lived for a thousand years in a common state, this is our dramatic story," he emphasised.

Under the bill amending the law on the IPN, all those who publicly attribute, contrary to the facts, responsibility or co-responsibility for the Third Reich's crimes, or other crimes against humanity and peace, as well as war crimes, to the Polish nation or the Polish state can be punished with a fine or a prison term of up to three years.

Source: PAP