Censorship or only moderated?

The Polish head of government in a chat

With "Good day, I introduce myself – Jerzy Buzek :-)" today the head of the Polish government Jerzy Buzek started a virtual meeting with up to 400, mostly very young Internet users on the portal Wirtualna Polska. The chat was intended primarily for schoolchildren, but the prime minister treated all participants, both children and adults, equally. That means: like little children. Telepolis was of course present.

The first participant already chased Buzek into a corner by asking him why the chat had to end at 12 p.m.00 o’clock, when most schoolchildren have classes. "So I find you in the school, which is a natural place for such meetings", Buzek answered – and already several chatters had to laugh, because they know very well that the Internet is not so natural in Polish schools.

As "Shame" another participant described the extremely high access fees of the after all predominantly state-owned Telekom in Poland. And he wanted to know why neither the government nor the parliament do anything about it. "We are preparing a liberalization of the telecommunications market, we have a timetable", replied Buzek, who has been at the head of the government since autumn 1997. Then he added that the most important thing is Internet laboratories in schools. There are currently 5600 and by 2002, Buzek said, there should be Internet in every Polish school.

In between there were awkward questions from the youngest participants, such as "Is politics a difficult profession?" or "How do you feel as a prime minister famous all over Poland??", until someone got too much of a good thing. "Why is there censorship here?", he asked. "If the questions had not been censored, there might have been a risk that Mr. Buzek would take it a bit amiss with Wirtualna Polska?"

"I do not see censorship here", Buzek replied. "The ies are divided into thematic groups. There are 400 questions at the moment. Had there been censorship, we were not let in this question", he continued. In fact, there was no censorship, there was only censorship …a moderator who made sure that no really uncomfortable questions were brought to the public. And so, after half an hour, the number of participants began to decline: the most rational had obviously realized that the politician had nothing to say to them. Because even simple questions he answered evasively, z.B. "When did you first encounter computer science? – Fifty years ago, when you did not yet exist".

Buzek’s answering technique became most visible when in the further course of the conversation purely political questions became outnumbered. And only after more and more "Hit" the number of participants stabilized around 350. Buzek more or less cleverly dodged the question as if he had not understood it. Wanted z.B. someone knows why the supposedly evangelical politician "sacred images" worshipping the pope with "Holy Father" Buzek said that his wife and daughter were Catholic. Another participant asked how it could be possible that Buzek’s party, the Election Campaign, could be the only party in the country "Solidarnosc", is a right-wing party, while trade unions (the party is a political party) "Verlangerung" the union "Solidarnosc") are already left-wing by their very nature – the head of government replied that the "S" all the good reforms started in Poland.

Poland’s accession to the EU also became a topic of conversation. "Where do you get such information from?? This is fundamentally untrue", Buzek said when a question about the meaning of the planned accession was smuggled into the chat. Since then, the moderator has been paying more attention and we have not been able to find out why Poland is being prepared for accession without first asking the people about their will to join. Of course, there was no censorship at all – just the moderator sorting questions into topic groups.

Overall, Buzek gave the impression that he either had no idea at all about what was happening in his country, since, for example, he did not even know the most important statistics about the highest inflation rate in years (almost 12 percent) and unemployment (ca. 14 percent) knows – or he leers as if printed. Inflation is falling, the reforms have been a success and this is now becoming visible, "we" want to join the EU in 2003, "we" make it in time with the preparations, the Union would "us" and the accession will provide "us" new workstations, etc. And in general: "I am not an optimist, but we should learn how to smile at least a little bit at the reality, which is incomparably better than it was a few years ago".

After 75 minutes of censorship-free discussion, Buzek went back to work, reforming, improving, and steering the country toward the EU. none of 15 questions we wanted to ask – even if incognito – were passed on to him. There is also the question of whether he had the courage to confront surfers in a non-moderated chat room. Buzek said that there will be more chats with him – let’s try again then…