Polish loggers beat TV operator & damage equipment in forest at center of EU-Poland row

An operator of a Polish news channel filming in the Bialowieza Forest – currently at the center of Warsaw’s row with the EU – was attacked by two loggers who knocked him over, smashed his camera, and stole memory sticks. Two suspects have been detained.

Wojtkowi Zdanowicz, operator of a Polsat News TV crew, required hospital treatment following an encounter with two loggers in Europe’s last primeval forest on Saturday afternoon.

Zdanowicz said the attackers at first attempted to run him over with a car. As he tried to hide among the trees, the men chased him down, with one hitting him on the head and another taking his camera.

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People attend a protest against judicial reforms in Warsaw, Poland, July 24, 2017 © Kacper Pempel

Shortly afterwards, the attackers returned to the scene and tossed his camera into the nearby bushes. The equipment was badly damaged, with memory cards missing from the device.

Before the attackers left, the injured operator managed to take a picture of the car the attackers were driving during the altercation – a red sedan.

Police were promptly called to the scene and subsequently identified the perpetrators as employees of the company involved in logging, aged 22 and 47. They were taken into custody, though no charges have been made so far, with police saying they need to establish the circumstances of the attack and allow the doctors to evaluate the extent of the victim’s injuries.

“The victim is still in hospital, checks are still under way, and his condition and his testimony will be crucial to the content of the charges,” police spokesman Tomasz Krupa said, as cited by Polsat News on their website.

Zdanowicz will have to wear an orthopedic collar for at least a few weeks following the incident, Polsat News reported.

The police have yet to locate the car of the suspected assailants, as well as the memory cards.

Jaroslaw Krawczyk, spokesman for Poland’s State Forests, the governmental organization that manages state-owned forests, condemned the assault, saying that the agency in no way endorses acts of violence.

“We do not allow such aggressive behavior,” Krawczyk said, noting that upon reviewing the case, they might consider terminating the contract with the company that employed the attackers.

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© Kacper Pempel

On Friday, the European Court of Justice ordered Poland to stop logging in the Bialowieza Forest, imposing a provisional ban on the activity.

The European Commission, which requested the ban, argues that the large-scale logging endorsed by the Polish government endangers rare species living in the forest.

Bialowieza Forest is located on Poland’s eastern border with Belarus, and is home to 20,000 animal species, including around 800 European bison.

The European Commission earlier launched formal legal proceedings against Poland over its handling of the ancient forest. It remains to be seen if the court will decide to keep the interim ban in place while a decision in the case is pending. 

Last year, Poland’s environment minister, Jan Szyszko, signed off on a measure to boost logging in Bialowieza from the 63,000 square meters allowed under the 2012-2020 plan, to 188,000 square meters – a three-fold increase.

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