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More Channel Two and Three journalists returned to work

In December 2016, journalists Wojciech Dorosz and Marcin Majchrowski were dismissed from Polish Radio on disciplinary grounds. Both filed a court action against the dismissal. During a conciliatory hearing held in August, the parties made a settlement, according to which the journalists will return to work at Polish Radio this week.

This is another case of the reinstatement to work of journalists dismissed on disciplinary grounds from the public media after the 2016 reform of the media law.

Ms Agnieszka Lisiecka, supported by Ms Katarzyna Żukowska and Joanna Woźniak, attorneys of Wardyński i Wspólnicy, accepted the HFHR’s request to represent the claimants. The Foundation also joined the proceedings as a non-governmental organisation.

Support for journalists taken off air

The case started in October 2016, when two news journalists of the radio Channel Three were taken off air. A group of employees and collaborators of the radio station expressed solidarity with the dismissed colleagues by, among other things, organising a social media action branded with the #kogoniesłychać” (“#whoissilenced”) hashtag and sending a letter to the management board of the Polish Radio. In the letter, 125 persons urged for “respecting the principles of journalistic independence and integrity and the working culture of Polish Radio”.

Dismissals

These actions resulted in the termination of several employment contracts. The first radio employee dismissed after the submission of the “Letter of 125” was P. Sołtys, a journalist and then-chair of a trade union. Shortly afterwards, two other members of the union’s board, Wojciech Dorosz and Marcin Majchrowski, were also sacked. In all cases, Polish Radio justified the termination by alleging that the dismissed journalists have been exerting psychological pressure on the Polish Radio’s management board, used “black PR” and attempted to “destabilise the work of the board and the entire Polish Radio Corporation” by “publicly harassing the Board” with, e.g., “demands of mediation”. The three journalists appealed against the dismissal to an employment court.

Trial and settlement

On Monday, 21 August 2017, the District Court for the capital city of Warsaw held a settlement hearing in the case brought by Mr Majchrowski and Mr Dorosz against Polish Radio. The court admitted the HFHR to the proceedings as a non-governmental organisation.

Ultimately, after a Board reshuffle in March 2017, the parties concluded a settlement. The Radio agreed to meet most of the journalists’ demands made in the statement of claims. In particular, they were reinstated to work in radio on conditions preceding their dismissals. Polish Radio Corporation also agreed to pay to Mr Majchrowski and Mr Dorosz a sum that includes their salaries for the period of dismissal and undertook to make two charitable payments of PLN 2,500 to the Free Speech Association.

Freedom of speech for journalists of public media. First successes and further struggle in courts

Apart from the above, the Foundation is involved in several other trials of journalists dismissed from public media outlets, such as the cases of K. Dąbrowa, T. Zimoch or J. Sosnowski.

The HFHR conducted the cases of journalists with the support of the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom.


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