A radical-right media outlet has attacked Poland’s top footballer Robert Lewandowski and promoted xenophobic conspiracy theories around the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Warsaw-based anti-racist ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association has noted a recent broadcast on the ‘Idz Pod Prad’ (‘Go Against the Tide’) online television program which targeted Lewandowski. The channel regularly refers to the coronavirus as ‘the Chinese plague’ and promotes a conspiracy theory about its origin. Against scientific evidence, it accuses the Chinese of intentionally producing and spreading the virus. It advocates a military conflict with China and announces, in the words of its head Pawel Chojecki, ‘the war against the Chinese communists is starting to take shape’.
In this context, Robert Lewandowski was attacked for having participated in an advert for a popular Chinese smartphone brand. Chojecki has called for a boycott of Poland’s national team captain by fellow players and media: ‘It is shameful for our leading player, at the moment when a life and death war is underway against the criminals who have the blood of over 100 million people on their hands (…) Mr Lewandowski agrees to be a Europe-wide ambassador for the Chinese communists, it is a shame and a disgrace for the Polish sports, no Polish sportsman should shake hands with Mr Lewandowski and no Polish journalist should pay any attention to his utterances’.
Chojecki failed to mention that already in March this year, the Bayern Munich striker with his wife Anna donated one million Euro to the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
In the same broadcast on 15 May, Chojecki attacked the ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association, Polish President Andrzej Duda, and Pope Francis who was labelled as ‘a heathen who celebrates Maoist Leninist rituals together with the communist comrades from China’.
‘Go Against the Tide’ is known for formerly employing Marian Kowalski, an ex-presidential candidate. Its founder Pawel Chojecki is a longtime political activist on the radical right and a vice-chairman of the 11 November Movement party. He is also the leader of a religious group called the New Covenant Church.
The ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association has recently published its latest REPORT ‘The Virus of Hate: Brown Book of the Epidemic’. The report documents acts of racism, xenophobia and discrimination which have occurred in the context of the coronavirus in Poland in recent weeks and months. The authors of the report recorded cases of assaults on members of minorities who are unjustly blamed for spreading the virus, as well as numerous examples of hate speech and conspiracy theories about the pandemic spread by the far right. They also noted some instances of xenophobia in the world of sports.
Rafal Pankowski, a co-author of the report of the ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association and a sociology professor at the Collegium Civitas university, commented: – ‘The global pandemic is also a global crisis of social trust and values amid confusion and anxiety. It is fertile ground for the dangerous growth of xenophobia and conspiracy theories’.
– ‘Examples of hatred are unfortunately coming from the top. In a pandemic, conspiracy theories promoted by public figures: celebrities, artists, politicians, journalists and clergy are particularly alarming’ – adds Jacek Dziegielewski, also a co-author of the ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association report.
– ‘Companies such as YouTube and Facebook, contrary to their formal announcements, often tolerate such content on their platforms’ – said Dr. Anna Tatar, co-author of the ‘Brown Book’.
The ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association is an independent anti-racist organization, it has campaigned against racism and xenophobia, for peace, intercultural dialogue and human rights both in Poland and internationally. Since 1996, it has conducted the first anti-racism campaign in Eastern European football, ‘Let’s Kick Racism Out of the Stadiums’ and is a founding member of the Fare network.