Polish state TV apologises for past anti-LGBTQ+ propaganda in watershed moment

People march through the street with rainbow flags during the Warsaw Equality Parade in Poland in 2023

A presenter at Poland’s state broadcaster has apologised for the “shameful words” directed at the LGBTQ+ community as part of a years-long campaign of anti-LGBTQ+ propaganda. 

The broadcaster – TVP Info – has courted much controversy for its anti-queer vitriol whilst being a mouthpiece for the previous government, the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party, which was in power from 2015 to 2023.

Current prime minister Donald Tusk, who came into power in December, has overhauled the channel in an attempt to depoliticise Polish state media. 

After Tusk’s Civic Platform party came into power, minister of culture Bartlomiej Sienkiewicz took the channel off the air and dismissed top officials at TVP, Polish Radio and state news agency PAP. 

On Sunday (11 February), TVP host Wojciech Szelag invited activists Bart Staszewski and Maja Heban to appear on his show and apologised directly to the community for the harm the channel’s coverage has caused.

“For many years in Poland, shameful words have been directed at numerous individuals because they chose to determine for themselves who they are and whom they love,” he said.

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“LGBT+ people are not an ideology but people; specific names, faces, relatives and friends. All these people should hear the word ‘sorry’ somewhere. This is where I apologise.”

The apology reportedly left Staszewski close to tears. 

“For eight years they showed LGBT activists – but also the LGBT community – as a threat to the Polish nation … feeding this hate to the people,” he said on Tuesday (13 February) as quoted by The Guardian

“Now the words from the TV studio were of recognition, of apology.”

He added that for some people the apology is “nothing” but for him “it’s a lot”. 

“After eight years of not being visible, of being some sort of lesser citizen. Both Maja and I were quite astonished by this. It was a touching moment.”

PiS’s time in power was a deeply difficult period for Poland’s LGBTQ+ community. 

The climate in the country became increasingly hostile towards queer folks with people being intimidated and labelled as paedophiles and an “ideology” by politicians, alongside municipalities the country infamously declaring themselves so-called ‘LGBT-free’ zones.