Central and Eastern Europe, International Journalism and PR

Poland marks 25 years since the end of censorship

Poland marks 25 years since the end of censorship

On 11 April 1990 the Central Office for the Control of the Press, Publications and Spectacles (Główny Urząd Kontroli Prasy, Publikacji i Widowisk), one of the most powerful authorities in communist Poland, became history due to a parliamentary bill.

This governmental institution was created in 1946 by the pro-Soviet Provisional Government of National Unity with Stalin’s  approval and backing. Up until 11 April 1990 no freedom of speech existed in communist Poland. All forms of public communication were controlled, including press announcements such as obituaries, as well as posters.

“In the Polish People’s Republic there was an Orwellian ‘two-track’ system: the Constitution guaranteed freedom of speech, but in fact there was a system of total, preventative and repressive censorship,” head of the National Broadcasting Council Jan Dworak told Polish Radio.

Dworak added that any piece of information reaching public opinion would first have to be scanned by the censors, although there were other offices which dealt with the screening of private correspondence and radio jamming.

Library collections were systematically cleansed, the majority of the books destroyed, some isolated in Party or academic libraries. A list of prohibited publications and black-listed writers was created in 1950 during the darkest years of Stalinism in Poland  with some 1,682 items, and subsequently modified many times by the communist authorities in the Polish People’s Republic.

A square in Warsaw by Mysia street, which used to house the Central Office for the Control of the Press, Publications and Spectacles, has been named the ‘Square of Free Speech’ to commemorate the censors under communism.

 

Photo: Daily newspaper of Wrocław, People’s Republic of Poland, 20-21 March 1981, with censor intervention on first and last pages.The right-hand page also includes a hand-written confirmation of that decision by the local “Solidarność” Trade Union. Photo: cc/wikimedia/user Julo

Sources and photo: The news.pl, Radio Poland, Wikipedia

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