Polish Editor Resigns, Newspaper Apologizes for Story Claiming Explosives

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(Credit: Rzeczpospolita, screenshot)

After publishing an article claiming explosives led to a 2010 plane crash, Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita was accused of sensationalism and the editor-in-chief resigned.  Reuters described the newspaper as “one of Poland’s best-selling newspapers” and Mondo Times adds that it’s a daily national newspaper.

The crash in question killed “former President Lech Kaczynski, his wife, and scores of public officials” who were heading to “an event in western Russia,” the Wall Street Journal reported.

Rzeczpospolita “partly retracted its report,”  which claimed “government experts had found traces of explosives, including TNT and nitroglycerin, on as many as 30 seats from the wrecked plane and on a segment of one wing,” the New York Times reported.   In that retraction, the newspaper stepped back its reporting on the crash to note “the findings about the chemical traces were not as definitive as it had initially said.”

Two previous investigations into the crash “said no traces of explosives had been found,” while the current Polish president’s twin brother Jaroslaw Kaczynski claimed the crash wasn’t an accident, the Wall Street Journal and the Daily Beast reported.

According to the Daily Beast, the newspaper’s reporter Cezary Gmyz “cited no less than four unnamed sources” in the story.

Poland military prosecutor spokesperson Col. Ireneusz Szelag called the article “sensationalist,” and said there isn’t “evidence and opinions” currently that back “the belief that the crash was the result of actions of third parties, that is to say an assassination,” according to the New York Times.

Rzeczpospolita’s “supervisory board” announced in a Nov. 6 statement that the article was “flawed and inadequately documented.”  It also called for the  firing of the newspapers’ “editor-in-chief Tomasz Wroblewski, his top deputy, and the two leaders of the national section” as well as the journalist who wrote the story, Reuters reported.

That statement is published on the newspaper’s website in Polish.  iMediaEthics has asked Rzeczpospolita for a copy of the statement in English.

Reuters added that a statement from the newspaper’s “owner and head of its supervisory board” Grzegorz Hajderowicz read

“Consequences have to be paid for wrong decisions, hence the dismissals and disciplinary firings.”

He also said, according to the AFP: “The unthinking acts of a number of individuals once again stoked a Polono-Polish war. I ask for the forgiveness of all our readers. Mistaken decisions cannot be without consequences.”

iMediaEthics has written to Rzeczpospolita asking for its anonymous source policy, what editorial processes the article went through, how many people were eventually fired or resigned over the incident, if the article was published online and in print. We will update with any responses we get to these questions.

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Polish Editor Resigns, Newspaper Apologizes for Story Claiming Explosives Caused Plane Crash

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