Kaczynski-Springer Spat Polish Prime Minister Kaczynski Denounces German Media

Poland's Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski is furious about being compared to Putin by the Polish edition of Newsweek, published by Germany's Axel Springer. He's calling for "limits" to be set on German influence in Polish media.

By Oliver Hinz

Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski doesn't like to be compared to Putin. He also doesn't like profile photos. Odd.

Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski doesn't like to be compared to Putin. He also doesn't like profile photos. Odd.

The German publisher Axel Springer has made plenty of enemies in its 60-year history. Generally, though, the right-leaning publisher has to fight off attacks from the left. But this time it has managed to offend one of Europe's most prominent right-wing politicians, Polish Primer Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

Kaczynski is annoyed about the current Polish edition of Newsweek, which is published by Alex Springer under license. The magazine ran a front-page story entitled "Almost Like Putin" which drew parallels between Kaczynski and the Russian leader -- as well as depicting Kaczynski as a Russian matryoshka doll, nested inside a larger Putin doll.

Kaczynski warned the publisher that it "should think carefully whether it's worth writing that kind of nonsense," according to the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza.

The prime minister told public radio station Polskie Radio that "a very large part of the media in Poland is German," and demanded that "limits should be set." Kaczynski called the Newsweek article "sick aggression" and "untrue."

The article's sub-title accuses Kaczynski of "exploiting the law" and having "an authoritarian style, contempt for election results and nationalistic tendencies," while in the story itself, deputy editor-in-chief Aleksander Kaczorowski accuses both Putin and Kaczynski of pursuing "strong arm" nationalistic policies and relying on the secret services.

In remarks to SPIEGEL ONLINE, Axel Springer spokeswoman Edda Fels emphasized the publisher's independence. At other times the publisher is accused of being too friendly to the Polish government, she said.

The editor-in-chief of the Polish edition of Newsweek Michal Kobosko defended the magazine against Kaczynski's criticism. "The prime minister doesn't understand the media," he said. "His statements reveal an anti-German phobia."

Kaczynski, who is leader of the right-wing Law and Justice party, has regularly complained about press which is critical of the government since he entered office last summer. However until now his gripe was always with the liberal newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza.

Axel Springer's two main Polish publications, the mass-circulation daily Fakt and the conservative daily Dziennik, have been kinder on Kaczynski and have even used him as a guest author. Fakt in particular has been critical of Germany, while Dziennik even defended Kaczynski against the Putin comparison from its sister publication. Alex Springer dominates the Polish print media market with 18 magazines as well as Fakt and Dziennik, which are the two leading newspapers in terms of circulation.

Politicians from Kaczynski's far-right coalition partner, the League of Polish Families, have also criticized the dominant role of German publishers in the Polish media market. Last year they unsuccessfully called for a parliamentary investigation into whether Axel Springer was not in fact an arm of German intelligence services.

There are worse things than being compared to Putin, of course. The Polish president and his twin brother Lech Kaczynski, who is Poland's president, were offended last year by the left-wing German newspaper Die Tageszeitung, who made fun of the brothers by representing them as potatoes. Ironically Die Tageszeitung has a tradition of being fiercely critical of Axel Springer.


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