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Poland9 August 2007

Government urged to amend laws that restrict press freedom

Press freedom in Poland is held back by the country’s laws, Reporters Without Borders was told today by Jacek Brzuszkiewicz of Gazeta Wyborcza, who got a six-month suspended prison sentence and a fine of 5,000 zlotys (1,300 euros) when he was convicted of libel by a court in the eastern city of Lublin on 12 July.

“The legislation in Poland is contrary to press freedom, especially article 212.2, which provides for prison sentences for journalists,” Brzuszkiewicz said. “I hope my case will help to change this situation.”

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s representative on Freedom of the Media, Miklos Haraszti, urged the Polish authorities on 6 August to repeal articles in the criminal code that restrict press freedom.

Zbigniew Holda of the Helsinki Foundation said Polish legislation went too far with criminalization and posed a threat to political debate.

25.07 : Reporter gets six-month suspended sentence for libelling judge

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the six-month suspended prison sentence and fine of 5000 zlotys (1,300 euros) which a court in the eastern city of Lublin imposed on Jacek Brzuszkiewicz of Gazeta Wyborcza on 12 July after finding him guilty under article 212 (2) of the criminal code of libelling Maciej Kierek, a judge attached to the Lublin administrative court.

“The sentence is out of all proportion to the offence, but unfortunately this is common in Poland,” the press freedom organisation said. “It is high time that Poland amended its legislation to bring itself into line with the relevant European standards.”

Brzuskiewick was prosecuted over a series of articles in 2003 in which he criticised the verdict issued by Kierek in a dispute between the residents of a public housing project and the owner of a laundry who used toxic products. The judge ruled in favour of the laundry owner.

Brzuszkiewicz’s lawyer said he will appeal.

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