Poet fined for rewriting Polish anthem to welcome refugees

The poet Jaś Kapela was convicted this week on the grounds of contempt for the Polish anthem. He created an alternative version of the song welcoming "refugees, from the Italian land to Poland".

Claudia Ciobanu
Claudia Ciobanu NewsMavens, Central & Eastern Europe
Source: natemat.pl
Poet fined for
rewriting Polish anthem to welcome refugees - NewsMavens
Jaś Kapela

Why this story matters:

To the supporters of the government, Kapela committed two capital offences. He "made light of" the national anthem and he invited refugees -- widely depicted as a threat -- to Poland at the peak of the 2015 crisis.

This is not the first time the Polish government and its faithful institutions limited free speech to impose their vision of reality. They recently dismissed the director of a widely acclaimed WWII museum in Gdańsk because they thought the exhibitions were did not offer sufficient praise for Polish fighters.

Poland is also currently embroiled in an international dispute over a new law punishing anyone who falsely implies that the Polish state or the Polish nation were complicit in the Nazi death machine. 

But Kapela's conviction might be the most blatant example of political censorship so far. 

migration, illiberalism

Details from the story:

  • In a final verdict on Wednesday, a court in Warsaw convicted Jaś Kapela, a poet and left-wing publicist, for "contempt for the emblem, colours or anthem of the Polish Republic" and fined him 1,000 Polish zloty (250 euros).
  • In 2015, at the height of the refugee crisis, Kapela and friends recorded an alternative version of the Polish national anthem, which he broadcasted on his YouTube channel. In the new version, Kapela replaced the words 'March, march, Dąbrowski, From the Italian land to Poland' with 'March, march, refugees, From the Italian land to Poland'.
  • The recording made its way to right-wing social media channels and from there it reached the court system.
  • Initially, Kapela was convicted of disrespecting the Polish nation and fined 500 zloty, then an appeals court reverted the verdict, only for him to be convicted again now in a final ruling.
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