Allegations of Poland’s historical anti-Semitism can be made freely in newspapers, the press regulator has said, after a reader’s letter provoked a huge row in Northern Ireland.
The ruling, from the Independent Press Standards Organisation, was welcomed by Gail Walker, editor of the Belfast Telegraph, whose publication had printed the original comments.
The row broke out when a local politician wrote about Nazi flags flying in Carrickfergus, noting he had recently visited “Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland”.
Polish Ambassador Witold Sobkow wrote to the newspaper, pointing out that “Poland was occupied by Nazi Germany and the USSR,” but this prompted a response from an academic with links to the Dublin Jewish Museum, who accused Poland of “deeply entrenched anti-Semitism”.
Dr Kevin McCarthy, of Kinsale, Co. Cork, wrote: “The Nazis knew that Poland, with its deeply entrenched anti-Semitism, was arguably the only place under its control that would accept such an extermination centre.”
He detailed a “pogrom of brutal proportions” in the Polish town of Kielce in 1946, when 42 Jews were killed, many of whom had survived the Shoah “This innate anti-Semitic world view was ultimately why the Nazis located extermination centres in Poland.”
The IPSO ruled this week that the Belfast Telegraph had not breached the Editors’ Code in publishing McCarthy’s views. “This reflects the – surely common-sense – position that editors don’t agree with every opinion that appears in their letters page, or, indeed, any other page,” said Walker.
“It also underscores newspapers’ vital role in identifying comment, conjecture and fact – and the right of a free press to publish all three.”