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February 22, 2019 - Updated on February 23, 2019

Poland: RSF decries criminal libel proceedings against Polish daily

The head of the Law and Justice party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski/ AFP
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is appalled by Polish ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s request for the highly respected Warsaw daily Gazeta Wyborcza to be prosecuted for criminal libel because it has been raising questions about his involvement in plans to build a luxury skyscraper in Warsaw. Kaczynski has asked prosecutors to initiate proceedings against the newspaper under article 212 of Poland’s penal code, under which journalists can be imprisoned for defamation. The use of this article is clearly designed to silence media criticism, RSF said.

Gazeta Wyborcza has been publishing reports for the past several weeks about Kaczynski’s alleged involvement in facilitating the high-rise project, about which the newspaper has raised many questions. The Polish media are now referring to the proposed skyscraper as the “K-Tower” – K for Kaczynski.

 

Kaczynski, who heads the ruling Law and Justice party, repeatedly refuse to answer Gazeta Wyborcza’s questions about the project and instead threatened legal action if it did not issue an apology and take down the articles from its website. After the newspaper failed to comply, he asked the public prosecutor to initiate criminal libel proceedings on 20 February.

 

We firmly condemn this abusive prosecution of an independent media outlet that has been the victim of various forms of harassment ever since the Law and Justice party was elected three years ago,” said Pauline Adès-Mével, the head of RSF’s European Union and Balkans desk.

 

Jaroslaw Kaczynski tried to intimidate the newspaper’s journalists when they raised questions about him and, after their refusal to submit, he decided to use the justice system that he has controlled ever since reforming it. We support Gazeta Wyborcza and we call on Kaczynski to abandon these authoritarian methods.”

 

After turning the public media into propaganda tools, the Polish government is trying to silence critical independent media. In a press release in December, RSF condemned an increase in prosecutions of journalists and called on the authorities to stop harassing the media.

 

Poland has been falling steadily in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index in recent years and is now ranked 58th out of 180 countries.