Thursday, September 28, 2023

Journalists protest against the conviction of newspaper editor-in-chief

Niezalezna(.)pl: Association of Polish Journalists (SDP) Press Freedom Monitoring Center (CMWP) is protesting against the sentencing of the editor-in-chief of "Gazeta Polska", Tomasz Sakiewicz, brought by MP Andrzej Rozenek. 

"This conviction violates the principle of freedom of speech based on the right of journalists to comment and describe reality and ignores an important element of this case, which is the real threat to the safety of a reporter, Michał Rachoń, after threats made against him by opposition politicians, including MP Andrzej Rozenek," points out CMWP.

MP Andrzej Rozenek sued editor Tomasz Sakiewicz for his words spoken on public TV station, TVP Info. Sakiewicz's comments concerned what happened during Donald Tusk's press conference in front of the public television headquarters. The co-author of the TVP journalist Michał Rachoń, went to Tusk's conference to ask him questions about his pro-Russian policies from the times when he was the Prime Minister. 

Politicians and candidates of the Civic Coalition pushed the journalist to prevent him from asking questions.  

Rozenek was in the lead, threatening Rachon: "How many apartments have you bought for rent, boy? How many apartments, six or seven? And do you know that we have the addresses of these apartments?"

Tomasz Sakiewicz commented on this case on TVP Info. He expressed his critical opinion about MP Rozenek's behavior. Rozenek felt offended and took the case to court.

After a 4-hour hearing in the case of Rozenek's lawsuit against Sakiewicz under the electoral procedure (ultra-speedy trial), a final decision was made. The court banned Tomasz Sakiewicz from speaking publicly about the incident. The court ordered a correction to be made within 48 hours by appearing on TV. Other demands from the accuser, including monetary compensation, were rejected.

In the opinion of the Press Freedom Monitoring Center (CMWP), the court's decision regarding the words spoken in the commentary is intended to trigger the so-called chilling effect, discouraging other journalists from speaking on political issues. 

Filing a lawsuit against a journalist who has the courage to publicly ask questions and raise doubts about actions of politicians, serves to suppress the exchange of views and opinions on important social issues, which is an essential element of a democratic society and is the foundation of democracy. This results in the destruction of free debate and attacks one of the foundations of the legal order of the Republic of Poland, which is freedom of speech – writes CMWP in a press release. 

In the Centre's assessment, Tomasz Sakiewicz's words were within the limits of press criticism.

CMWP also submitted a notification to the prosecutor's office on suspicion of a crime involving the use of violence and unlawful threats in order to force the journalist to refrain from press intervention and obstruct and suppress press criticism.