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Equality and variety versus discrimination and prejudice – watchdog educates and intervenes

Human dignity, non-discrimination and cultural, religious and linguistic diversity are also values cherished by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, all of which are supported by the “Open Republic”. This organization undertakes educational as well as interventional actions to meet its goal – creating an open and non-discriminative society. A society built on cultural diversity capable of showing respect towards values of different groups – ethnical, national etc. Bellow we present a few examples of educational actions and interventions performed by the Association.

Interventional actions of the Association have different characters. An intervention is executed through reporting actions which discriminate ethnical, religious and other groups, directed at specific groups or people. For example in April 2012 the “Open Republic” reported a crime pursuant to art. 256 and 257 of the Penal Code committed by the web portal www.chamsko.pl .The Association sent a notification to the Public Prosecutor General in connection with the portal’s activity, where suggestive graphics, “jokes” in the form of texts or photos are published daily. The content is obviously based on stereotypes and historical facts, and is offensive towards people of other than Polish nationality, including Jews, adherents of different religions, people of different origin, look or sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Association also takes measures in cases when the laws concerning specific people are infringed or broken. After repeated acts of intolerance and hatred in Lublin, directed against Tomasz Pietrasiewiecz – the founder and manager of the Theater NN “Grodzka Gate”, the Open Republic took several steps (November 2011 – Declaration of the Management Board of OR on the case of Tomasz Pietrasiewicz, Declaration of the Management Board of OR on the case of Tomasz Pietrasiewicz; May 2012, A letter to the mayor of Lublin). The Association, among other actions, sent out a plea to the city’s mayor, asking for an immediate reaction concerning the ant-Semitic posters which offended Tomasz Pietrasiwicz. This matter turned out to be so controversial to the public opinion, that Polish Ombudsman has also intervened. Currently the prosecution in Lublin supervises the investigation started on 18 May 2012 by the Voivodeship Police Headquarters in Lublin concerning, among others, public calling for national,. ethnic, racial and religious hatred by placing a poster depicting the manager of the “Grodzka Gate – Theatre NN” Center, with the logo of the center and an appropriate information, on one of the a bus stops in Lublin.

The mayor of Lublin, to whom a letter was also sent, promised that he will make an effort to help Lublin become a tolerant and open city. It is worth noting that such a reply was acknowledged by the Association as a success, because, as the Head of the Association Paula Sawicka claims – […] the representatives of the authorities do not show any sensitivity towards public expressions of hatred and they give their consent for intolerance.

The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights is also involved in this matter. It approached the Head of the Internal Security Agency gen. Krzysztof Bondaryk, asking him to begin a robust intervention concerning the repetitious anti-Semitic attacks in Lublin.

The second kind of actions undertaken by the Association, are educational activities which are connected with alarming and informing – distributing information on breaches of law concerning discrimination on national and ethnical background. In 2012 the Open Republic has many times alarmed the public opinion of anti-Semitic or racist attacks, but also about the lack of appropriate law regulations concerning for example hate speech in the internet and insufficient knowledge of Public Service Officers on how to act in case of such law infringements . As can be read in one of the articles on the Association’s web page – […] the number of crimes committed on a national and racist background is on the incline, and most of the proceedings are discontinued while the perpetrators remain unpunished. Prosecutors and policemen are not familiar with such crimes, and they are often classified as incidents.

“Open Republic” describes on its website many examples of intolerance and attacks, hate speech, but also writes about lack of knowledge and the inefficiency of the Polish criminal justice system

The Organization also manages strictly educational activities. Like running tolerance workshops for junior high students and secondary school students. It also organizes and co-organizes conferences on the subject of discrimination.

All actions carried out by the “Open Republic” Association are focused on implementing change i.e. building an open and tolerant society.

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