"Using army would be a PR loss". Turmoil after leak from "Michał Dworczyk's email account"
"Sending army would be a PR loss and suggest that the government sees protesters as a threat" - minister Michał Dworczyk is said to have written on the 27th of October 2020 in an email to, among others, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. During that time a wave of protests against the Constitutional Tribunal's ruling on abortion swept through Poland. It's unclear who came up with the idea to send the army. The opposition demands answers, the prime minister and his office remain silent.
Last week, reports regarding a hacker attack on chief of prime minister's office Michał Dworczyk's email and his wife's social media account. The minister confirmed himself that the cyberattack had taken place. Dworczyk reassured in statements that "no classified, restricted, secret of top secret information" had been compromised. On Friday he informed that "attacks on his family's accounts in various communication channels were ongoing, even including his children".
On Tuesday evening, on Russian messenger service Telegram, appeared contents of an alleged email sent on the 27th of October 2020 at 21:32 from Michał Dworczyk's private email account. Among the addressees were Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, the chief of PM's political cabinet Krzysztof Kubów and the government spokesperson Piotr Mueller.
Although the email has been published over 10 hours ago, and the story was reported by, among others, by "Gazeta Wyborcza" and Onet portal, no government representative has denied its authenticity. At this stage it's impossible to fully verify content published in Telegram. Nevertheless, due to key public interest, we've decided to write about with this story. Public opinion has the right to know if top state officials were using private and insufficiently secured email accounts for official correspondence, crucial in terms of state security.
In the fall of 2020, a wave of protests swept through Poland against the ruling issued by the Constitutional Tribunal imposing a near-full ban on abortion. A few hours before the alleged sending of the email, the chairman of the Law and Justice party Jarosław Kaczyński called upon Poles to protect churches.
According to information published on Telegram, the topic of the correspondence pertained to potential using of the army to secure the protests and its potential consequences. Presenting a number of arguments, Dworczyk advised against such solution. "Using the army in the current situation would create a significant risk of provocations, accusations, huge PR losses for the government and the military, as well as evoke extremely negative connotations" - he is said to have written. It remains unclear whose idea it was to potentially send the army.
"Dziennik Gazeta Prawna" wrote about the possibility of using the Territorial Defence Force by the government already in December 2020. "PiS was considering using the WOT. In the end the concept was dismissed as too controversial" - the newspaper wrote based on two independent sources. A source close to the case told "DGP" that the idea of involving the army originated from "defence minister Mariusz Błaszczak's circle". "Despite the MON chief's good relation with Nowogrodzka, the idea wasn't approved by PiS chairman Jarosław Kaczyński" - "Dziennik Gazeta Prawna" informed at the time.
On October 30, three days after the email sending date, Military Police officers appeared in the streets of Warsaw. On October 26, PM Morawiecki issued an ordinance allowing the Military Police to provide support "in scope of maintaining safety and public order". Increase in COVID-19 infections was given as the reason for the decision.
On November 1, on the other hand, 200 retired generals and admirals issued a call to the government. "We are worried there may be a situation again in the streets of Polish cities in which use of force and unnecessary victims would appear" - they wrote.
"Using army in current situation creates various risks"
The alleged email by Michał Dworczyk lacks information regarding which particular protests the army would have been sent to. One could deduce it from the context and the date of this email sending, as well as from a remark that "the TK ruling is only a confirmation of unconstitutionality". The protests, organised by the Women's Strike against the ruling by the TK led by Julia Przyłębska finding the abortion rules unconstitutional, began on October 22.
In the alleged email, the minister is said to have presented arguments as to why the use of the army could lead to "tarnishing of the soldiers' good reputation by sending them to face women and children". The arguments were listed in points:
The army (or WOT, or other soldiers) is not trained for such operations and should not participate in them unless in a state of necessity.
- Using the army would be a PR loss, suggesting the government treats protesters as a threat.
- No similar action was taken in other EU counties during the pandemic.
- Such decision would tarnish the good name of the soldiers.
In the email we can also read that "sending them (the army - edit.) to face women and children (the protests are attended by many people aged under 18, many people plan to take part in the protests with their children)", could lead "to accusations of acting like authoritarian regimes (for example Belarus, Venezuela, martial law in Poland)".
The author points out that "the protests need to expire themselves - despite epidemic restrictions, it's impossible to limit them. Emotions raised by the TK ruling are now stronger than the fear of getting infected. It's advisable to permanently appeal for a dialogue; indicate that the TK ruling only confirms the unconstitutionality and the road to rational legislative solutions is still open; underscore the epidemic danger".
"Call upon the public"
The author of the email also advises "in what character the army could help to secure the protests, if a decision to send it is made". Here, the author also suggests in points that:
- the military participation should be restricted to protecting public buildings, including churches;
- the military should form joint operational teams with other services, for example firefighters should be aided by soldiers;
- sending only Military Police to help should be considered, as it this service has the best knowledge about restoring order, which in the end was done;
- sending military medics to set up a medical aid point for protesters injured in potential clashes.
Finally, the author of the email writes that "the role of the state in the current situation is to publicly and intensively counteract the pandemic and try to establish dialogue with the conflicted sides (similarly to meeting regarding Belarus or fight against the pandemic). TK issued a particular ruling, but there's no reason for not meeting and trying to discuss a rational solution for the problem".
Although the authenticity of the email has not yet been confirmed, politicians comments on its contents. Tomasz Siemoniak from Civic Platform published the email and said that "considering using the army against protesters via private email accounts of the prime minister and other ministers proves that these people are a threat to the state". "Step down" - he appealed.
"Government seriously considering using the army against Polish women protesting in defence of their rights puts shame on the administration" - Civic Platform spokesman Jan Grabiec said on Twitter. "Poland is governed by people capable of sending army against their own nation. The prime minister should immediately explain who was behind this dangerous plan" - he added.
Secretary General of Civic Platform Marcin Kierwiński that "if the reports turn out to be true" about government officials had discussed using Polish Army against protesting women, "the State Tribunal will have plenty of work to do". "The prosecutor too. This would be a disgrace matching the martial law" - he added.
"Army against protesting women? If it's true, then the State Tribunal will be the hardest working institution in the next term" - Katarzyna Lubnauer from the Modern party wrote on Twitter.
"That's how Kaczyński's, and his allies', patriotism really looks like: contempt, aggression and violence" - Civic Coalition MP Barbara Nowacka tweeted.
Until the moment of publication of our article neither prime minister Morawiecki, minister Dworczyk, nor the government press service commented on the issue.
Źródło: TVN24 News in English, TVN24
Źródło zdjęcia głównego: Shutterstock