A blogger from Mosina acquitted
On Wednesday, 8 June 2011, the Circuit Court in Poznań acquitted Łukasz Kasprowicz, the blogger charged with defaming the mayor of Mosina, a town near Poznań in western Poland. Mr. Kasprowicz was found not guilty on 13 of the 15 counts. The Court discontinued the proceedings regarding the remaining two counts, citing the negligible social harm presented by the alleged offences.
In doing so, the Court fully accepted the arguments raised by the defence in the appeal. In its verbal justification of the decision, the Court referred to the standards of freedom of speech developed by the European Court of Human Rights. These were argued both by Mr. Kasprowicz’s attorney and the HFHR, which submitted an amicus curiae brief in the case. Judge Leszek Matuszewski pointed out that public figures must tolerate an extensive amount of fair criticism from citizen journalists. According to the judge, the latter may express even the harshest of opinions, provided such opinions concern the public activities of a public official and are expressed not to defame the official but to serve a public interest.
It should be noted that on 25 January 2011, the first-instance court found Mr. Kasprowicz guilty of defamation and imposed severe penalties. The blogger was sentenced to 300 hours of community work and ordered to apologise to the mayor in writing and pay a monetary sanction of PLN 500 to the Polish Red Cross. Mr. Kasprowicz was also requested to reimburse the costs of the trial. Further, the first-instance court banned the defendant from working as a journalist for the period of one year (the blogger worked as a journalist in a local newspaper but there was no connection between his articles in the paper and his blog).
The second-instance judgement, reversing the decision of the first-instance court and acquitting Mr. Kasprowicz of any wrongdoing, has already become final. The case was a part of the Observatory of the Freedom of Media in Poland Programme.
Mr. Kasprowicz was represented in the case by Mr. Grzegorz Górski, a lawyer with Cogito law office in Toruń acting pro bono.