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Attacks on the Press in 1997 - Poland

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 1998
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 1997 - Poland, February 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47c5654823.html [accessed 16 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

In a nationwide referendum in September, Poland adopted a new constitution which forbids censorship and guarantees "freedom to express opinions, to acquire and disseminate information." This assurance is qualified, however, by vaguely worded exceptions "to protect the freedoms and rights of other persons and economic subjects, public order, security or important economic interests of the state." Caveats of this sort are typical for the region and easily misused by governments, although such abuses are generally the exception rather than the rule in Poland's open media climate.

Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek's center-right government, elected in September, has not expressed any intention of repealing provisions of the country's penal code on criminal and seditious libel, despite assurances made by President Aleksander Kwasniewski in 1996 that Poland would remove them. Of particular concern is Article 236, which makes insulting a public official punishable by up to two years in prison. While there were no criminal defamation cases filed against journalists in 1997, CPJ continues to monitor the case of Tadeusz Rydzyk, a priest who hosts a program on Radio Maryja. He is under investigation for allegedly insulting members of the Sejm who voted to liberalize the country's abortion law. The possible application of Article 236 in the case would clearly tarnish Poland's otherwise improved press freedom record.

There are still many complaints that the National Radio and Television Broadcasting Council, the chief regulatory body for broadcast media, lacks sufficient independence. Some observers have noted that state-run television and radio news broadcasts are still susceptible to the influence of political parties and lack balanced coverage of events.

Despite these outstanding issues, however, Poland's media remain among the most free, diverse, and professional in the region. Successful media outlets, such as Gazeta Wyborcza, have begun to provide professional and technical training to journalists from media trouble spots around Eastern Europe.

Copyright notice: © Committee to Protect Journalists. All rights reserved. Articles may be reproduced only with permission from CPJ.

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