Agata Grzybowska, who works for the RATS Agency, the Associated Press and the Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper, is being charged with “violation of a policeman’s physical integrity”. While covering a “women’s strike” protest outside the Ministry of Education in Warsaw on 23 November, she allegedly blinded a police officer with her camera flash - he then manhandled her and threw her into a police van. She was then taken to a police station and held for several hours, during which the police interrogated her and tried to get her to admit her guilt.
The Warsaw police claim they were unaware she was a journalist at the time of her arrest although she visibly displayed her press card to them.
“Agata Grzybowska’s arrest and the charge brought against her show that Poland has crossed another threshold in the suppression of media freedom,” said Pavol Szalai, the head of RSF’s European Union and Balkans desk. “Instead of preventing journalists from reporting in the field, the police should protect them. Such press freedom violations are unworthy of an EU member country. The charges against this journalist must be dropped.”
The Polish police has subjected journalists to growing harassment in the field in recent weeks using a range of methods. Without any evidence, Gazeta Wyborcza reporter Angelika Pitoń was charged on 24 November with using indecent language and not wearing a mask while covering a “women’s strike” protest in the southern town of Zakopane on 6 November.
Police pepper-sprayed journalists working for OKO.press, Gazeta Wyborcza, Gazety Polskiej Codziennie and Wlodek Ciejka TV on 18 November, and beat reporters for Newsweek Polska and Gazeta Wyborcza during demonstrations on 11 November.
Poland is ranked 62nd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.