Riding roughshod over journalists’ right to protect their sources, prosecutors and intelligence officials raided the Warsaw headquarters of the weekly magazine Wprost on 18 June in an attempt to seize recordings that are embarrassing the ruling party.
Wprost caused a political earthquake on 15 June when it published details of what it described as the first a series of conversations between politicians that had been secretly recorded in a chic Warsaw restaurant. The first recording to be published was a conversation between the interior minister and central bank governor, in which the latter promised to support the government’s budgetary policies and reelection strategy. The police do not yet know who recorded the conversations but the Warsaw prosecutor’s office has begun investigating the restaurant’s owner on suspicion of recording them illegally. It was this investigation that provided prosecutors, police officers and members of the Internal Security Agency with grounds for their 18 June raid on Wprost with the declared aim of obtaining the computer devices with the recordings in order to “secure” them. Citing their right to protect their sources, Wprost’s journalists refused to surrender their computers. When editor-in-chief Sylvester Latkowski held on to his laptop, police struggled with him and even tried to damage it, exposing the spurious nature of their claim to be trying to “secure” the recordings. “We fully support Wprost’s staff against what is a serious attack on the confidentiality of journalists’ sources,” said Reporters Without Borders deputy research chief Virginie Dangles. “Raiding a publication and using force in an attempt to seize journalists’ computers are methods that are unworthy of Poland’s democracy.” After reporters from other media flocked to Wprost’s offices during the raid, the prosecutors and police finally withdrew. The Polish bar’s national council adopted a resolution yesterday pointing out that the attempt to seize recordings held by Wprost journalists “violated fundamental rights guaranteed by the Polish constitution, code of criminal procedure and press law.” Denying any attempt to restrict freedom of information in Poland, Prime Minister Donald Tusk called for the recordings to be handed over to the judicial authorities on the grounds that they are needed for the investigation and because, otherwise, politicians could be exposed to the possibility of blackmail. At a news conference in Warsaw on 18 June after the raid, prosecutor Andrzej Seremet said the original recordings were needed to identify who made them. He invited journalists to hand over their computers to the prosecutor’s office under seal, so that only judges would have access to them. He did not say whether Wprost would be raided again.