HFHR’s statement on detained civic journalist
Responding to the pre-trial detention of the civic journalist Paweł M. the HFHR has sent a letter to the Regional Prosecutor’s Office in Zielona Góra.
In summer 2012 the man posed as the Cabinet’s staff member to expose the head judge of the Gdańsk’s Circuit Court, who expressed a willingness to cave in to the apparent political pressure in the case of the former boss of Amber Gold accused of orchestrating the notorious financial fraud scheme. Last week, the journalist was arrested and for seven days travelled in a police convoy from Wrocław to Zielona Góra. It was not until 21 March 2014 that the prosecution questioned the suspect and finally lifted his detention. Certain charges brought against M. concern his involvement in the provocation performed in the course of his journalistic work.
“In its jurisprudence the European Court of Human Rights have been repeatedly highlighting that detention ordered in connection with journalistic work cannot be reconciled with the standards of freedom of speech. A journalist may be detained only if they incite hatred or violence. Considering the facts of the case, and even the issued arrest warrant, we doubt whether it was necessary to apply pre-trial detention for the entire week”, reads the HFHR’s statement.
According to the Foundation, the fact that a journalist has criticised and exposed flaws in the functioning of the justice system should not have caused the bringing of criminal charges against him or entitle law enforcement authorities to impose any forcible measures on the man.
In commenting on M’s journalistic sting, the HFHR emphasised that it has proven to have been an effective measure of confirming allegations of certain dysfunctions within the justice systems. The provocation lead to launching disciplinary proceedings against Judge Ryszard Milewski. Furthermore, it is beyond any doubt that it has served a public interest and was beneficial to society.
The Foundation concludes that all these elements should be taken into account in the assessment of the journalist’s actions, both at the pre-trial stage of the criminal proceedings and in court.