Subverting of journalism in Poland by intelligence services
Commentary by Ted Lipien
FreeMediaOnline.org Free Media Online, San Francisco, CA, January 30, 2007 -- News reports that the Polish military intelligence may have recruited as many as 115 journalists as spies in the early 1990s are not at all surprising. [ Link to Polish Radio report...] While at that time Poland was already democratic having just replaced a communist regime through a nonviolent revolution spearheaded by the Solidarity labor movement, the communist-era functionaries and practices were still very much entrenched within the Polish intelligence, police and military establishment.
Recruiting journalists, priests, and human rights activists as agents was a top priority of the secret services in Poland until the communist regime's collapse. Continuing of these practices even after the return of democracy in Poland showed that the process of reforming the military, intelligence-gathering and law-enforcement sectors was not an easy task to be accomplished quickly and that many communist-era operatives were still actively using their old methods. The apparent aim of recruiting journalists as spies in the early 1990s was to influence media reporting in Poland.
While I worked as a journalist in charge of the Voice of America radio broadcasts to Poland in the 1980s, Polish Embassy officials in Washington, D.C. whom I had suspected of being intelligence officers tried several times to recruit me as their agent. I was not surprised by these efforts and considered them as something to be expected when one dealt with communist officials. I was somewhat surprised, however, when during my visit to Poland in the early 1990s shortly after the collapse of the communist regime, a Polish acquaintance, whom I also had suspected of having links with the intelligence community during the communist-era, questioned me how I would feel about sharing information which could benefit Poland now that the country had a democratically-elected government.
FreeMediaOnline.org, a California-based nonprofit organization I have founded to defend journalistic independence, is engaged in an educational campaign to help journalists worldwide guard against being influenced and compromised by government officials including intelligence operatives, pressure groups, and corrupt businesses. The Polish Sejm (Parliament) should adopt laws severely restricting or altogether banning recruitment of journalists as spies. Similar laws passed by the U.S. Congress have had a positive effect but could be strengthened to eliminate any lingering suspicion that journalists can be compromised by intelligence services or other government officials.
It is likely that some of the journalists recruited in Poland in the early 1990s had been agents of the communist-era secret police and were blackmailed to continue their cooperation. If it is true that so many Polish journalists had indeed agreed to work as spies in exchange for money, other benefits or as a result of blackmail, it should be a matter of great concern to the journalistic community in Poland and to journalists everywhere.
[Link to the Committee to Protect Journalists article: "Subverting Journalism: Reporters and the CIA" by Kate Houghton.]
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