Open letter to Polish Minister following censorship threats
Following requests by the Polish Government Plenipotentiary for Equal Treatment to take down articles reporting on her disagreement with the European Commission, MEPs wrote in support of the statements, and warning against libel threats to the media and non-governmental organisations.
Brussels, 3rd November 2010
We understand that on 29th October 2010, you addressed formal letters to, among others, the national newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, national organisation Campaign Against Homophobia, and the editors of websites innastrona.pl and polgej.pl. The letter formally requests that these media withdraw articles reporting on a statement by the European Commission that disagrees with your interpretation of EU law.
Two Members of the European Parliament asked priority written questions to the European Commission, in accordance with Article 230 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and Rule 117 of the Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament. These questions were put to the Commission following your remarks in Polish newspaper Gość Niedzielny on the employment of teachers by Catholic schools, as well as your contribution to the televised debate in which you reiterated an erroneous interpretation of EU law and disclosed your interlocutor’s sexual orientation.
In the written question entitled ‘Polish Government Plenipotentiary for Equal Treatment’s comments on homosexuality’ (P-7979/2010), Member of the European Parliament Michael Cashman explicitly cited your remarks before asking how the Commission interpreted provisions contained in Directive 2000/78/EC. The question concerned faith-based schools employing teachers in the light of their sexual orientation, which was the precise subject of your earlier remarks.
In its response, the European Commission considers that ‘in conformity with the jurisprudence of the Court, any exceptions from EU law need to be interpreted narrowly’, and further declares that it ‘fails to see how a teacher’s sexual orientation could reasonably constitute a genuine and determining occupational requirement’. The Commission concludes by recalling that ‘When they are implementing Union law all government institutions should observe the principle of equal opportunities and non-discrimination in line with the Treaties’.
The Commission’s response directly contradicts your assertion that faith-based schools would be right to discriminate against employees, or potential employees, on the basis of their sexual orientation. Therefore, it is accurate to state that the European Commission disagrees with your views.
The request to withdraw the publication of this view is thus problematic and worrying, in particular since the statements published are in no way defamatory or libelous, and deserve consideration by the Polish public. We therefore fully support the publication of these articles, and consider them part of a free and open debate, crucial to the healthy functioning of a democratic society such as Poland.
We are concerned that your request to withdraw the reports published by the aforementioned media may be intimidating—especially for less well-established media such as innastrona.pl and polgej.pl.
Trusting that you will share our opinion on the importance of enabling these views to be disseminated, we look forward to further contributing to the debate on the values shared by all Member States, including non-discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.
Michael Cashman MEP, Co-president
Ulrike Lunacek MEP, Co-president
Raül Romeva i Rueda MEP, Vice-president
Carbon copies: Viviane Reding, Member of the European Commission for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship