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    CMWP SDP protests against Sakiewicz’s verdict. Was the court’s decision intended to have a chilling effect?

    The Press Freedom Monitoring Centre of the SDP (CMWP SDP) has protested against the verdict against the editor-in-chief of “Gazeta Polska” Tomasz Sakiewicz in the electoral case brought by MP Andrzej Rozenek. “This conviction violates the principle of freedom of speech based on the right of journalists to comment on and describe reality and ignores an important element of this case, which is the real threat to the safety of the editor Michał Rachoń after threats uttered against him by opposition politicians, including MP Andrzej Rozenek,” CMWP SDP points out.

    MP Andrzej Rozenek sued editor-in-chief Tomasz Sakiewicz for his words said on TVP Info. Sakiewicz’s comment concerned what happened at Donald Tusk’s press conference in front of the public television headquarters. The co-author of the Reset series, TVP journalist Michal Rachoń, went to Tusk’s conference to ask him questions about pro-Russian policies from his time in government. Efforts were made to prevent him from doing so. The journalist was pushed around by Civic Coalition politicians and candidates. Rozenek was leading in the situation, while he threatened Rachon: “How many flats have you bought for rent boy, how many of these flats, six or seven? And you know we have the addresses of these flats”.

    Tomasz Sakiewicz commented on the case on TVP Info. He expressed his criticism of Mr Rozenk’s behaviour. The latter felt offended and went to court.

    After an almost 4-hour hearing on Rozenk’s lawsuit against Sakiewicz in the election procedure, the final decision was made. The court forbade Tomasz Sakiewicz to speak about the incident at Tusk’s press conference in specific terms to date. It ordered that a correction be issued within 48 hours through an appearance on TVP Info. The remainder of the request was dismissed, including payment. 

    CMWP SDP: This is intended to have a chilling effect

    In the opinion of the CMWP SDP, the court’s decision regarding the words uttered in the publicist programme is intended to have a ‘chilling effect’, i.e., to discourage other journalists from speaking out on political topics. 

    “Directing a lawsuit against a journalist who has the courage to pose questions in public and raise doubts that at least some citizens have about the actions of politicians, e.g., the opposition, actually serves to stifle the exchange of views and opinions on important social issues, which is an essential element of a democratic society and the foundation of democracy.  This results in the destruction of free debate and violates one of the foundations of the legal order of the Republic of Poland, which is freedom of speech,”

    informs the CMWP SDP in a communiqué.

    According to the Centre, Tomasz Sakiewicz’s words fell within the limits of press criticism. Earlier, the CMWP SDP in the case of Donald Tusk’s press conference, to which Sakiewicz’s comment referred, filed a notice to the public prosecutor’s office on suspicion of committing a crime involving the use of violence and unlawful threats to force a journalist not to intervene in the press and obstruction and suppression of press criticism.

    “The CMWP SDP announces further monitoring of the case and declares its readiness to provide free legal assistance to the journalist if needed,”

    indicated Jolanta Hajdasz, director of the CMWP SDP.

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