BBC Panorama: International Response to Racism Claims

There has been a truly international response to BBC Panorama’s expose of racism amongst Polish and Ukrainian soccer fans.  Various members of the Polish Government have criticised the TV programme, calling it everything from “very one-sided” to “cheap journalism” in which racism and anti-Semitism in Poland is “blown out of every possible proportion”.  I was astonished to see an impromptu TV interview with controversial Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.  He must have realised the potential damage the Panorama documentary might do his country’s image ahead of the Euros.  In his interview he conceded the Tymoshenko affair could hinder Ukrainian integration into Europe, and said external lawyers were carrying out an audit of the case.  As a lawyer myself, that struck me as odd: shouldn’t the President be confident enough in his own justice system, or alternatively, prepared to reopen the case based on a robust system of appeals within Ukraine?  In the blogosphere – including this blog – interest in the Panorama programme has been huge, but disappointingly (or, inevitably?) polarised.  I’ve seen tit for tat comment strings, each side accusing the other of being apologists for racism, and prejudiced against Eastern Europe, respectively.  Everyone’s entitled to their view, though I do find it galling when some can’t express theirs in measured terms.  My own view is the truth in this case really does lie somewhere in between.  The extreme racism of the “ultra” fans we saw in Panorama does happen, is despicable, and should be clamped down on faster than has hitherto been the case in Eastern Europe.  But, certainly in Poland, it is representative only of a small minority, and as such the programme gave a perverse view of Polish life.  Poland is of course a perfectly safe not to mention enjoyable place to visit – not the impression the documentary gave.  I think a much bigger question is the extent to which the bulk of the population in Poland – a racially and religiously homogenous country – is open to “multi-culturalism” (accepting that concept is under debate in the West as we speak!).  In my book Polska Dotty I say there’s a change, and I see it particularly (Ultras apart) in the young, who are more open-minded.  More recently, I also see it in a growing dissatisfaction with the Catholic church, which has resulted in a political movement (though not sure how salubrious) aimed at curbing the church’s extraordinary influence and wealth.  It seems to me this is rather the zeitgeist to watch, and as many bloggers have been quick to point out, not without an eye to our own history and frailties in this regard.

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Filed under Anti-semitism, BBC, Euro 2012, Football, Hooliganism, News, Poland, Polska Dotty, Racism, Ukraine

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