Polish federation accuses Daily Mail of defamation
'Reluctant' complaint made to press watchdog
Newspaper denies it is biased against migrants
Colin Graham in Warsaw and Stephen Brook
Saturday March 15 2008
(This article appeared in the Guardian on Saturday March 15 2008 on p7 of the UK news section. It was last updated at 11:37 on March 17 2008.)
The Federation of Poles in Great Britain has “reluctantly” contacted the Press Complaints Commission, accusing the Daily Mail of defaming Polish residents in the UK.
In its letter of complaint to the PCC, the federation accused the Daily Mail of printing articles that gave rise to “negative emotions and tensions between the new EU immigrants and local communities”.
The Daily Mail has strongly rejected the complaint. A spokesman insisted the paper was “not in any way anti-Polish” and said that it ran plenty of positive stories about people from Poland.
The FPGB letter, sent last month, also complained about 50 Daily Mail headlines it said displayed anti-Polish sentiment.
The organisation claimed that the paper has a deliberate policy aimed at encouraging discrimination against immigrants, in particular Poles and their families.
A spokesman for the Daily Mail said: “If you take the balance of articles published by us, the Polish migrant has not been identified as a hate figure and we have often and continuously drawn attention to the benefits Britain has and does derive from the skills that immigrants bring us.”
The federation, the largest of the organisations representing Poles in the UK, said: “We reluctantly complained because we prefer to sort out our own problems. But we have been paying for our pride, and we have run out of patience.”
Jan Mokrzycki, who chairs the FPGB, told Polish media: “It was the headlines which were the most offensive, using emotive anti-Polish language.
“Poles seem to be unable to please the Daily Mail, whatever they do. On one day you get a headline Poles Flood into England, implying the country is drowning in immigrants, and the next day you get Poles Desert England, as if we are abandoning them.
“Poles are not totally innocent, no society is totally innocent, and if a Pole does something wrong then he or she should have to face the music. But when you get a series of articles and none of the headlines shed a positive light, and all shed a negative light by using this sort of terminology, then it is fair to say we can complain about bias.”
Mokrzycki said the Daily Mail had refused to respond to complaints from the federation, which had been forced to act through the PCC.
A PCC spokesman said it had requested more information from the federation.
The Daily Mail spokesman said the paper was not against any ethnic group.
“We do reserve the right to criticise bogus asylum claims, benefit cheats, tax dodgers and militant fanatics, no matter where they were born,” he said.
“The Mail is entitled to run stories about immigration, the more so as the last 10 years have witnessed immigration on a scale at a vastly increased rate than at any time in this country's history since and including the Norman invasion of the 11th century.
“We have run articles praising the skills of Polish workers and pointing out that many employers prefer their work ethic to the lack of commitment of British workers. We have run stories pointing out the areas in which Polish workers have been exploited. We have run pieces pointing out that Polish children are generally better behaved in our schools than British children. We have run letters pointing out the best sides of Poles living in this country.
“We ran an in-depth series, The New Britons, by Fiona Barton, which had a very balanced and fair assessment of the virtues of Polish immigrants.
“The headline on a major feature by one of our top writers read: Poles Apart – Hard-working, Reliable, Honest. Meet the Polish builders, plumbers, and decorators putting work-shy Britons to shame…”