Court bans Poland’s justice minister from linking director and her film to Nazi propaganda

A court has issued an injunction banning justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro from likening director Agnieszka Holland and her new film Green Border to Nazi propaganda. Holland is currently suing Ziobro for making such comparisons.

The minister has called the injunction an “assault on freedom of speech” and announced that he will appeal.

The justice minister says it’s more important how he is judged by God than by a court so he won’t withdraw remarks likening a director to a Nazi propagandist, despite her plans to sue him

He also confirmed he hasn’t seen the film that led to his criticism

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) September 15, 2023

The court order – issued yesterday and shared by Holland’s lawyer – bars Ziobro from making public statements, including social media posts, in which Holland and her work are “referenced, juxtaposed or compared…[with] criminal authoritarian regimes from history or the present day (e.g. the Third Reich, Soviet Union, Stalinism, Putinism)”.

The ban was imposed for the duration of a defamation case Holland has brought against the minister for likening her to a Nazi propagandist due to her new film, which depicts mistreatment of asylum seekers at Poland’s border with Belarus.

“In the Third Reich, the Germans produced propaganda films showing Poles as bandits and murderers. Today, they have Agnieszka Holland for that,” wrote Ziobro, before the film had been released. He has since made further comments likening the director’s work to Nazi and communist propaganda.

Jako pełnomocnicy Agnieszki Holland informujemy, że SO w W-wie wydał zabezpieczenie zakazujące Zbigniewowi Ziobrze wypowiadania się na temat p. Holland i jej twórczości, porównując ją do zbrodniczych reżimów autorytarnych. adw. Sylwia Gregorczyk-Abram, adw. Michał Wawrykiewicz.

— Sylwia Gregorczyk-Ab (@SylwiaGAbram) September 26, 2023

After Holland announced that she would sue Ziobro unless he retracted his remarks, the minister refused to back down, saying that God’s judgement of his actions was more important than that of any court. Holland’s lawyers are now seeking a court order for Ziobro to apologise and pay 50,000 zloty to charity.

Today, following the publication of the injunction by Holland’s lawyer, the minister called it an “assault on freedom of expression”, announcing that he would appeal.

“According to the court, Agnieszka Holland can compare Polish soldiers and the border guard officers to bandits, sadists and German Nazis,” he said, quoted by broadcaster TVN24. “On the other hand, I cannot respond to her words by standing up for the Polish soldiers and border guard officers who are so horribly challenged and insulted by her.”

Other figures from across Poland’s government have also condemned Green Border as “anti-Polish” and defamatory. The interior ministry last week announced that it would broadcast a special clip in some cinemas before screenings of the film to inform viewers of the “many untruths and distortions” it contains.

Poland’s government will show a “special clip” in cinemas before screenings of Green Border – a new Agnieszka Holland film depicting mistreatment of refugees – to inform viewers of the “many untruths” it contains

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) September 21, 2023

However, the film has won praise from critics, in both Poland and abroad, and received the special jury prize at the Venice Film Festival earlier this month, where its screening was followed by a 15-minute standing ovation.

Some had tipped the film to be this year’s entry from Poland for best international feature film at the Oscars. But this week the judging committee instead chose The Peasants (Chłopi), which received four votes while Green Border got two.

Afterwards, Holland told the Hollywood Reporter that members of the committee had told her they thought Green Border was a better choice but they feared the government would “punish them if they picked it, by restricting grants or funding for their movies”.

The head of the committee,  Ewa Puszczyńska – the producer of Oscar-winning films Ida and Cold War – insisted, however, that the committee was “independent [and] everyone voted according to their consciences”.

The Peasants (Chłopi) – a handpainted animated film from the makers of the Oscar-nominated Loving Vincent – is Poland’s candidate for best international feature film at @TheAcademy awards.

It was narrowly chosen ahead of Agnieszka Holland’s Green Border

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) September 25, 2023

Notes from Poland is run by a small editorial team and published by an independent, non-profit foundation that is funded through donations from our readers. We cannot do what we do without your support.

Alicja Ptak is senior editor at Notes from Poland and a multimedia journalist. She previously worked for Reuters.

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