Poland: Civil defamation case against Professor Wojciech Sadurski should be dropped

Poland: Civil defamation case against Professor Wojciech Sadurski should be dropped - Civic Space

ARTICLE 19 is calling for the Polish public broadcaster, TVP, to drop their civil defamation lawsuit against constitutional law scholar, Professor Wojciech Sadurski.

The case, which begins on January 28, 2020 is one of three civil and criminal defamation cases to be brought against Sadurski by TVP and ruling Law and Justice party which leading free expression organisations have condemned.

Head of Europe and Central Asia, Sarah Clarke said:

“This is a vexatious lawsuit, designed to harass, intimidate and silence those who speak out against the Polish authorities. Defamation cases such as this pose a significant threat to press freedom and advocacy rights. If TVP are successful, we are concerned by the possible chilling effect on freedom of expression in Poland.

ARTICLE 19 also has serious concerns about the fairness of the trial, following the recent crackdown on the independent judiciary in Poland.”

Background

TVP brought the case over a tweet that Sadurski posted on 16 January 2019. In it, Sadurski blamed the Polish public broadcaster TVP for an organised smear campaign that led to the assassination of the Mayor of Gdansk, Pawel Adamowicz, on 14 January 2019. He called on opposition politicians not to appear on the “government media” channels of TVP, describing it as a “Goebbelsian media company”.

In the civil defamation case, TVP demands: a public apology in the form of an expensive advertisement on a news portal; an injunction to remove the tweet in question; a payment of PLN 20 000 [EUR 4600, US $ 5200] to a nominated charity; and paying all costs associated with the case. Sadurski has reportedly stated that these punishments exceed his financial resources.

In addition to the civil case, there is a criminal defamation case against Sadurski that is being brought by TVP under Article 212 of the Criminal Code [in Polish “zniesławienie”]. This case relates to the same tweet.

Poland’s ruling party, the Law and Justice party, have also brought a civil defamation case against Sadurski concerning another tweet. ARTICLE 19 have previously issued a joint statement calling for all three cases to be dropped.

ARTICLE 19 is monitoring the case and has submitted an amicus brief [in English] [po polsku].

For more information or media enquiries, please contact Pam Cowburn [email protected], +44 (0)7749 785 932

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