FILE - In this Sept. 6, 2018 file photo, Georgette Mosbacher stands next to an American flag after receiving her credentials as new United States ambassador to Poland in Warsaw. Moshbacher has triggered anger on social media on Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018, with a letter allegedly sent to Poland's prime minister that takes his government to task over its treatment of a U.S.-owned independent television station. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski, File)

US ambassador angers Poles with letter to prime minister

November 27, 2018 - 2:01 pm

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The U.S. ambassador to Poland has triggered anger in Poland with a letter allegedly sent to the prime minister that takes his government to task over its treatment of a U.S.-owned independent television station.

The note on embassy letterhead that was signed by Ambassador Georgette Mosbacher circulated in Polish media Tuesday. It misspells the last name of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and addresses him with the wrong title, as well as misspelling the name of the interior minister.

Overall, ties between the U.S. and Poland are good and Poland is lobbying for a permanent U.S. military base that it has promised to name "Fort Trump." Poland's conservative, nationalist government also has a lot of ideological similarities with U.S. President Donald Trump. It was not clear who leaked the letter and government officials seemed eager to play it down.

Mosbacher, a Trump appointee, said she wrote to express "deep concern" over government treatment of TVN, a Polish broadcaster owned by the U.S. company Discovery. The station is seen in Poland as representing a liberal viewpoint critical of the conservative government.

TVN broadcast undercover footage in January that showed members of a Polish neo-Nazi group celebrating Adolf Hitler's birthday last year. Recently authorities said they wanted to prosecute the undercover reporter on charges of propagating fascism, a move that was widely denounced as absurd and an attempt to harass the station. The plan was dropped on Sunday.

"I hope that members of your government will refrain from attacking, let alone prosecuting, independent journalists, who articulate public interests and strengthen our societies," she wrote in the Nov. 19 letter.

In a handwritten note at the bottom she added: "We have to figure this out, it is getting in the way of the really important things."

Mosbacher's letter was posted Tuesday by Bartek Goduslawski, a reporter for the daily Dziennik Gazeta Prawna. Polish commentators on social media said they found the tone and the mistakes to be disrespectful.

Mosbacher made similar remarks about media freedom in a meeting in parliament last week, prompting deputy prime minister, Jaroslaw Gowin, to cancel a meeting with her, according to Polish media reports.

Krystyna Pawlowicz, a lawmaker with the ruling party, wrote in a tweet addressed to Mosbacher: "I DEMAND from you respect for the Polish people and the Polish state and its democratically elected authorities."

Liberal critics of the Polish government said they agreed with the basic message of the letter. Human rights groups and the European Union have been expressing concerns about the state of democracy in Poland over new laws that have eroded judicial independence and the ruling party's transformation of public media into a propaganda tool.

The U.S. Embassy in Warsaw said it "cannot comment on official diplomatic correspondence."

Officials close to the Polish government told The Associated Press that the letter was being treated as real and had caused consternation in the government.

TVN was bought for $2 billion by the U.S. company Scripps Networks Interactive, making it the largest U.S. investment ever in Poland. Scripps has since been bought by Discovery, Inc., which is based in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Marcin Makowski, a reporter for the conservative weekly Do Rzeczy and the Wirtualna Polska portal, said Poles, with their long and painful history of being under foreign rule, want to be treated like equal partners.

He also said there was a belief in Polish ruling circles that Mosbacher "doesn't really support a free media" but was backing a U.S.-based business.

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