Poles accuse 'Daily Mail' of defaming community

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The Independent Online

Poles in Britain have accused the Daily Mail ofdefaming their community in a letter of complaint to the press watchdog.

Many articles published on Polish migrants were likely to foster racial tension, the Federation of Poles in Great Britain said. The federation, the largest group representing Poles in Britain, says that of 80 articles published on the subject by the Daily Mail in the past two years, fewer than five were positive. Headlines such as "Are young Polish workers robbing their country of its future?"; "Britain is country of choice for many 'feckless' Poles" and "Polish Borat claims groping women is normal in eastern Europe", are among those that have caused fury.

The federation accused the newspaper in its letter to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) of being unacceptably racist. "If the subject had been Pakistani or African immigrants, such a string of article headlines would have been considered blatantly racist and probably subject to a court summons," the letter said.

"This kind of shock reporting, week-in week-out, serves only to exacerbate the tension", the federation added. "They are slingshots aimed at Europe and the Government which rebound against Poles and other central Europeans in street abuse, fire-bombed homes and mob attacks, while the Daily Mail washes its hands of all responsibility."

The PCC confirmed it had received the complaint, but said it was not in a position to make a full assessment until further documentation was filed.

Wiktor Moszczynski, of the federation, said the full documentation would be sent within a week.

"It will take us a while", he added. "The full text of what they've written about us would fill a shopping bag; it's a gigantic pile."

The Daily Mail was accused of continually trying to "eke out a negative story wherever possible". In the letter, the federation compared the coverage of a government report on migration released on 17 July last year with that in The Independent.

While the Daily Mail headline said "Influx of immigrants costs every UK household £350 a year", an equivalent article in this paper, based on the same report, was headed "Home Office: migrants work harder, earn more and pay more taxes than Britons".

The executive managing editor of Associated News & Media, Robin Esser, told the federation in a letter that the Daily Mail was "not in any way anti-Polish", and the sometimes violent reaction of Britons to Polish migrants was "worrying", but "not the fault of the Daily Mail".

A spokesman for the Daily Mail said: "If you take the balance of articles published by us, the 'Polish Migrant' has not been identified as a 'hate figure' and we have often and continuously drawn attention to the benefits Britain has and does derive from the skills that immigrants bring us."