Poland Urgent Appeal

Polish journalist Tomasz Piątek was incriminated by the Polish Ministry of National Defence for allegedly using ‘violence or illegal threat’ and ‘public insults’ against ‘constitutional authority of the Republic of Poland’; namely Antoni Macierewicz, Poland’s minister of defence.
Last week, Ministry of Defence sent to the Military Department of the National Prosecutor’s Office a ‘notification on suspicion of committing a criminal offence’ by Tomasz Piatek – immediately after he published his book entitled ‘Macierewicz and His Secrets’. The book, based on profound and dilligent investigative research, reveals Mr Macierewicz’s network of aides, collaborators and political associates who, in turn, have numerous contacts, both political and financial, with Russian entities close to Kremlin, its military spy agency (GRU) and ‘Solntsevo’ mafia, an international criminal organization.
Ministry of Defence did not use the libel law against the author of this book; instead, the Ministry resorted to three articles of the Criminal Code which imply jail penalties.
These articles are:
Art. 224. Coercion.
§ 2. Anyone who uses violence or an illegal threat with the intention of forcing a public official, or a person assisting him or her, to undertake or abstain from legal official activity is liable to the same punishment [imprisonment for up to three years].
Art. 226. Insulting a public official.
§ 3. Anyone who publicly insults or humiliates a constitutional authority of the Republic of Poland is liable to a fine, the restriction of liberty or imprisonment for up to two years.
Art. 231a. Legal protection of public officials.
The legal protection provided to public officials during or in connection with the performance of public duties extends to an official also if an unlawful attack on his person is carried because of his or her profession or position.
On July 11th 2017, National Prosecutor’s Office announced that it had received the notification from the Ministry of Defence; however, with no explanation how the above mentioned Criminal Code articles might apply to the contents of Tomasz Piątek’s book. Previously, large parts of the same author’s investigative reporting about Macierewicz’s suspicious links were published by Gazeta Wyborcza, a leading Polish daily newspaper, or by its website Wyborcza.pl. Then, Mr Macierewicz did not sue the author or the newspaper.
The present action by Mr Macierewicz’s ministry – an attempt to accuse and imprison a journalist for his publication, while using the Criminal Code and the highest prosecutor’s office, fully controlled by Mr Macierewicz’s cabinet colleague, Minister of Justice – amounts to the intimidation of journalists and media that criticize those in power. Also, it is the evident infringement of freedom of speech and press freedom.
Gazeta Wyborcza appeals to the international media community to protest against this action which endangers press freedom, and to come forward in defense of Tomasz Piątek.
Piotr Stasinski
deputy editor-in-chief
Gazeta Wyborcza