- January 18, 2013
Real problems or manipulation of facts?
The Sword of Damocles has hung over Lithuanians in Poland – Lithuanian media informed this week. Polish authorities are demanding from the publishers of a Lithuanian newspaper “Aušra” – from Stowarzyszenie Litwinów w Polsce (the Association of Lithuanians in Poland) – the return of the part of subsidy for the year 2011. The demand may even contribute to the closure of the newspaper – its creators are convincing.
The news in Lithuanian media sounded dramatically. The words about discrimination and pressing to the wall were uttered. The daily “Lietuvos žinios” quoted the editor-in-chief of “Aušra” Irena Gasparavičiūtė: “The decision concerning the return of costs was unexpected for our editorial staff and its reasons are unclear”.
Irena Gasparavičiūtė made an assumption that the demands of the Polish Ministry of Administration and Digitalization (MAC) – because precisely from its funds the activity of the newspaper “Aušra” is subsidized – are directly connected with tensed relations between Lithuania and Poland. According to the editor-in-chief, the Association does not have a required sum of money (about PLN 16,000) and “the most likely” the newspaper will be forced to finish its activity. This would mean that Lithuanians will lose the essential access to the Lithuanian printed word.
The statement of the chairman of the Lithuanian community in Poland, Jonas Vydra, is cited in the article “Lietuvos žinios”: “We are pressing to the wall. On the one hand, the number of anti-Lithuanian attacks is increasing, the boards with names of places are damaged, the monuments of culture, the memory of the dead in the cemeteries is being desecrated, on the other hand we are experiencing open pressure from the state administration”.
Yet, the information obtained from MAC allows to assume that the situation of the newspaper “Aušra” is not so tragic as Lithuanian media depicted it. Indeed, in accordance with regulations, the Association has to return a part of the subsidy, but it is only 6.5 per cent of the received financial support which in total amounted to over PLN 250,000.
As the press officer of MAC Artur Koziołek informed “Wilnoteka”, the decision concerning the return of a part of the subsidy was taken on the basis of legal regulations and in accordance with the agreement signed by Stowarzyszenie Litwinów w Polsce and the Minister of Administration and Digitalization of the Republic of Poland.
“In accordance with this agreement, in the case of reducing costs of the task financed from the granted subsidy, own funds and the funds from other resources, the amount of the subsidy is reduced by the same per cent by which the total cost of the task was reduced. It results from the calculation of the Budget and Finance Department of MAC that the Association reduced the total cost of the task by 6.12 per cent, which takes effect of the proportional amount of the granted subsidy by the same per cent, i.e. PLN 242,221,04, whereas the result in the amount of PLN 15,789,60 is subject to the return to the Ministry’s bank account” – explained A. Koziołek.
The press officer added that the Association received the decision concerning this issue on 8th January this year and currently the Association can ask for reconsideration of the matter within 14 days. “It results from the information received from the Association, which the Department of Religious Beliefs and National and Ethnic Minorities is in touch with all the time, that it is going to exercise its right” – informed A. Koziołek.
In this context the statements quoted earlier by the daily “Lietuvos žinios” seem to be somewhat far-fetched. For example, the comment made by the former Minister of Foreign Affairs Audronius Ažubalis, convincing that “the situation of Lithuanian minority in Poland cannot be compared with what Polish minority has in Lithuania.
Indeed, PLN 250,000 of state subsidy for the newspaper of national minorities in Poland cannot be compared with the situation of Polish media in Lithuania. The latter receive only occasional earmarked support (for example, the bailout from the Self-Government of Vilnius for the programmes devoted to the subject-matter of the city in the Radio “Znad Wilii”) and small amounts from state institutions. The only one media financially supported by the Fund for the Support of the Press, Radio and Television was in the year 2011 a quarterly “Znad Wilii”. It received 40,000 litas of subsidy.
Tłumaczenie Barbara Szydłowska w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Barbara Szydłowska the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.