It’s embarrassing to say, but Poland was ranked the worst for LGBT+ people in the EU in 2020, according to ILGA-Europe, an NGO that advocates for the rights of LGBT people. ILGA-Europe takes into account not only actions by the states but also the social climate.
Local authorities declaring “LGBT free zones,” archbishops linking LGBT+ rights movement to Nazism, city mayors legally fighting Pride Parades, and the president of Poland stating that “LGBT are not people, it’s just an ideology” all happened in 2020 in Poland.
We had to step in. Gazeta.pl is one of the leading news portals in Poland and also the only one to publish an annual Editorial Pledge to readers. In the 2020 edition, we stated: “We pledge to cover human rights abuses and violations. Gazeta.pl is a place for everyone. We stand to protect the minorities and those who cannot defend themselves.”
And we acted as we declared.
Showing the face of LGBT+ families
We knew standard reporting would not be enough. We wanted to show support, combat stereotypes, and influence social debate whenever we could.
Andrzej Duda, the president of Poland, said in June 2020 that “LGBT are not people, just an ideology.” That’s when the idea emerged for Nina Cieślińska’s documentary series about LBGT+ couples raising children in Poland. The four-episode documentary series, “Family+” ran in October and received more than 400,000 views. It also earned a nomination for Grand Press, a major Polish journalism award.
Showing our Pride
June 2020 was also when the major Pride Parade in Warsaw was canceled due to the pandemic. We at Gazeta.pl decided to host a Pride Weekend on our Web site. On the day previously planned for Pride Parade, Gazeta.pl changed its logo to a rainbow and launched an all-weekend celebration that included reporting on equality. We were the only major news portal in the country to do so.
We stepped in, too, when the journalists drew justified attention. When non-binary activist Margot Szutowicz was detained by the police in August 2020, many news outlets failed to recognise Szutowicz ’s non-binary identity, which resulted in derogatory questions and remarks from several leading journalists.
In reaction to these events, Wiktoria Beczek, a longtime reporter on LGBT+ rights at Gazeta.pl, wrote “How to cover LGBT+: A media guide,” which was distributed to editors-in-chief of major news outlets in Poland. As a natural follow-up, many people of Gazeta.pl signed a protest letter when a homophobic interview with Szutowicz was nominated for the Grand Press Award.
The debate on media and journalist activism in crisis-hit democracies will be with us forever. We hope that Gazeta.pl’s actions will contribute to the discussion.
As we stated in the 2021 edition of Editorial Pledge: “We are committed to act on important social matters, and we will continue to do so.”
Additionally, Gazeta.pl improved its year-to-year ratings as a medium that “covers topic on LGBT+ rights,” according to Kantar.