Afrique Ameriques Asie Moyen-Orient Internet Nations unies
Poland25 January 2005

The editor of a satirical paper sentenced for making "insulting" comments about the pope

A Warsaw court ordered Jerzy Urban, editor of satirical newspaper Nie to pay a fine equivalent to 5,000 euros on 25 January 2005, after he was convicted of insulting Pope Jean-Paul II as a "foreign head of state" under Article 136.3 of the Polish criminal code. The prosecutor‚s call for a ten-month suspended prison sentence was dropped but the harsh fine, just for a satirical article, sets a dangerous legal precedent for free expression in Poland.

Prosecutor requests suspended prison sentence for "offensive" editorial about pope 19 january 2005

The prosecution in Poland of satirical newspaper editor Jerzy Urban for an editorial about Pope John Paul II could set "a dangerous precedent for a European Union member state," Reporters Without Borders warned today.

A Warsaw prosecutor on 14 January requested a 10-month suspended prison sentence and a fine equivalent to 5,000 euros for Urban, the editor of the newspaper Nie, because of an editorial published on 15 August 2002 deemed "offensive" to the pope.

"We know perfectly well that it is still completely taboo to criticise Pope John Paul II in Poland, but that must not prevent the authorities from conforming to the laws regulating press freedom in Europe, including article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights concerning free expression," Reporters Without Borders said.

Published on eve of a papal visit to Poland, the article was headlined "The walking sado-masochist." It described the pope as the "Vatican’s Brezhnev," in reference to the continuation of his reign despite declining health, and as an "impotent old man" offering a "spectacle of horror" to the public.

The prosecutor’s office said Urban "crossed the legal limits of free speech and journalistic ethical norms by using expressions offending and mocking the pope with the aim of slandering and humiliating." Under article 136.3 of the Polish penal code, Urban could get three years in prison for "publicly insulting a foreign head of state."

A verdict and sentencing is due on 25 January. If the prosecutor’s request is upheld and Urban gets a suspended prison sentence of 10 months or less, this will constitute a violation of free expression and a threat to the safeguarding of diversity of opinion in Poland. Urban has provocatively said he hopes to be sent to prison because this would prove "the existence of pro-church censorship" in Poland.

  In this country
21 October - Poland
President Kaczynski threatens Polish TV reporter during EU summit
10 October - Poland
Constitutional court confirms law punishing media publishing unauthorised articles
30 August - Poland
Secret services raid journalist’s home to arrest ex-minister who blew whistle on tapping
9 August - Poland
Government urged to amend laws that restrict press freedom
26 June - Poland
Regional weekly editor told he will have to serve three-month prison sentence

in the annual report
Poland - Annual Report 2008
Poland - Annual report 2007
Poland - 2006 Annual report

Europe press releases
4 June - Kosovo
Rrokum TV station still excluded by national broadcasting network
2 June - Ukraine
Potential witness’s death deals severe blow to probe into journalist’s murder
2 June - Turkey
Woman journalist held for past five weeks on baseless charge of link to armed group
2 June - Russia
Journalist seeks asylum in Finland after being convicted for prison torture articles
29 May - France
Regrettable decision by appeal court to lift ban on magazine only if offending photo is covered up

5 February 2009 - Bulgaria
“Resignation or resistance, Bulgaria’s embattled press hesitates”
28 January 2009 - Russia
Fact-finding visit : Moscow double murder may have been linked to November attack on local newspaper editor
27 June 2008 - Turkey
Investigation report into the detention of journalist Haci Bogatekin, imprisoned for more than two months and facing ten and a half years in prison

Sign the petitions
Jusuf Ruzimuradov

Europe archives
2009 archives
2008 archives
2007 archives
2006 archives
2005 archives
2004 archives
2003 archives
2002 archives
2001 archives
2000 archives