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Jerzy Urban is also known as Jerzy Kibic, Jan Rem, and Klakson. He was a Polish journalist, commentator, writer and politician, editor- in-chief of the weekly Nie and owner of the company which owns it, Urma.
Jerzy Urban whose birth name is Jerzy Urbach was born on August 3, 1933, until his death on October 3, 2022, at the age of 89. He was born and raised in a Jewish family in Łódź, Poland. His father was an activist of PPS and Bund. In 1939, during the issuing of his Soviet ID, an official confused the letters in his name (ch – х in Russian, which was transcribed as н – corresponding to the Latin n). Nevertheless, his parents decided not to change it, a move which possibly saved their lives when Germany seized Lwów in 1941.
Jerzy Urban reportedly attended 17 different primary and high schools. He completed his senior high school exams as an external student. He studied in two faculties of the University of Warsaw and was expelled from both. He started his journalistic career with the journal Nowa Wieś. During 1955 to 1957, he was a journalist – reporter and commentator – for the weekly Po prostu, which started during the rehabilitation of Władysław Gomułka, who became the communist party leader. However, the newspaper was closed by the personal initiative of Gomułka, which symbolised the end of the thaw which started under Gomułka.
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The newspaper was closed mainly because of the biting, uncompromising opinion articles by Urban. Urban himself was officially banned from publishing under his own name. From 1961, he worked for the weekly Polityka, continuing his opinion pieces under pseudonyms. He was eventually totally forbidden from carrying out any journalistic activities. This ban continued until Gomułka lost power as party leader.
Despite Jerzy Urban’s critical attitude towards Edward Gierek’s rule, he was an opponent of the Solidarity movement in 1980 and often criticized its leaders (including Lech Wałęsa). From 1981 to 1989, he was a spokesman for the Council of Ministers. He created the tradition of weekly press conferences, transmitted by the Polish television and attended by both Polish and foreign journalists. In September 1984, during the month before the murder of the priest Jerzy Popiełuszko, he wrote a column “Seanse nienawiści” (hate session); he criticized the priest as an anti-communist Savonarola.
In 1986 Urban masterminded a media story that the United States had betrayed the Solidarity movement. He met with a Washington Post reporter and told him that a Polish spy for the CIA, who was later identified as Ryszard Kukliński, was aware of the plan to install martial law in 1981 and had passed that information on to Washington. “The US administration could have publicly revealed these plans to the world and warned Solidarity,”
Jerzy Urban said, “Had it done so, the implementation of martial law would have been impossible.” At a press conference Urban alleged that “Washington … did not warn its allies. It did not boast of its agent as it customarily does.” According to Urban, the Reagan administration had “lied to its own people and to its friends in Poland,” when it denied having prior knowledge of martial law.
During the semi-free elections in 1989, Urban candidate as an independent (he was never a member of the PZPR). He suffered a landslide defeat and since then gave up attempts to actively participate in politics. In 1990 he established Nie, an anti-clerical tabloid-like newspaper, which often uses profanity. He has been the chief editor ever since and the newspaper itself has many readers.
Jerzy Urban was charged in 2002 with offence against a head of the Vatican state, Pope John Paul II, due to the publication in Nie of the article “Obwoźne sado-maso” (House-to-house sado-masochism); the article was published prior to a pilgrimage to Poland by the pope. Among allegedly offensive terms used by Urban were “sędziwy bożek” (old worship idol), “gasnący starzec” (fading old man) and “Breżniew Watykanu” (Brezhnev of the Vatican).
The Youth Forum of the political party PiS and the Media Ethics Council took him to court. In court, Magdalena Bajer, the leader of the Media Ethics Council, testified as a witness that Urban brutally mocked the suffering of a man who was a head of state. The court case was considered a precedent. Urban pleaded not guilty. During the case, he declared: Looking at the papal cult with the eye of an atheist is just as legal as the ecstasy of devotees.
Jerzy Urban was defended by the International Press Institute in Vienna, expressing its concern that the court case against Urban was a form of censorship, as well as by Reporters Without Borders, who stated: We are perfectly aware that criticizing John Paul II is an absolute taboo in Poland, but this should not prevent the authorities from defending legal principles related to freedom of the press in Europe (especially Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, relating to freedom of speech).
In turn, a specialist in church law, priest Prof. Florian Lempa stated that Urban’s action did not satisfy the definition of the crime, since a head of state is only protected when he is present on Polish territory, and the article was published before the pope arrived in Poland. Moreover, Urban had the right to his point of view, and satire is admissible. He added that the article was aimed at people who try to profit from the pope, rather than at him personally.
The prosecutor asked for a sentence of ten months’ imprisonment suspended over three years and a fine of 20 thousand zlotys (about €5,000). On 5 January 2005, the court convicted Urban and fined him 20,000 zlotys. The court argued, Jerzy Urban intentionally caused a scandal by publishing an article about John Paul II at the moment when the pope came to Poland. According to the court, the publication was a deliberate, tactical move as well as a measured provocation by Urban, since otherwise, it would not have caused such a violent (popular) reaction and outrage. The court stressed that permitted criticism does not have to be pleasant, but it cannot be insulting. After the court verdict, Urban stated that the sentence revealed the serialisation of justice. He added that he did not expect much from going through the appeals process, but he would go to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary.
Jerzy Urban’s last marriage was to his wife Małgorzata Daniszewska. However, Urban married three times. He has one daughter. He described himself as an atheist. When it comes to Jerzy Urban cause of death, Jerzy Urban death cause was not released immediately pending further investigation.
Jerzy Urban net worth
How much was Jerzy Urban worth? Jerzy Urban net worth was estimated at around $3 million. His main source of income was from his career as a journalist, commentator, writer and politician, editor-in-chief. Jerzy Urban’s salary per month with other career earnings was over $500,000 annually. He was one of the richest and most influential journalists in Poland. His remarkable career earned him some luxurious lifestyles and some fancy cars. Jerzy Urban stood at an appealing height of 1.73m and had a good body weight.