Home Page > News Item > Poland: Investigative journalist Tomasz Piątek faces potential charges in relation to his work

31 August 2017                                                                                                

RAN 15/17

Journalist and writer Tomasz Piątek

Journalist and writer Tomasz Piątek

PEN International is concerned that Polish investigative journalist Tomasz Piątek faces potential criminal charges in relation to a book published in June 2017. The book, ‘Macierewicz and his Secrets’ (‘Macierewicz I jego tajemnice’) examines links, both political and financial, between the network of Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz’ aides, collaborators and political associates, and the Russian military intelligence services, entities close to the Kremlin, and organised crime. Shortly after the publication of the book, Macierewicz filed a criminal complaint against Piątek, which is currently under investigation by the Office of the Prosecutor General.

Piątek could be charged at any moment. If charged and found guilty, he could face up to three years’ imprisonment. PEN International calls on the authorities to immediately abandon the criminal investigation into Tomasz Piątek.

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Please send appeals calling on the Polish authorities to:

  • Immediately abandon the case against Tomasz Piątek and not pursue any criminal charges if they relate solely to his book and work as an investigative journalist;
  • Respect the exercise of the right to freedom of expression in Poland, as protected by Article 54 of the Constitution of Poland, Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, Article 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and in particular ensure that journalists are able to carry out their legitimate activities without fear of reprisals.

Write to:

Minister of Justice Prosecutor General
Zbigniew Ziobro
Prokuratura Krajowa
ul Rakowiecka 26/30
02-528 Warszawa
Poland

Email: biuro.podawcze@pk.gov.pl

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Poland in your country if possible. A list of embassies can be found here.

 

Background

Tomasz Piątek was born in Pruszków in 1974. He writes for some of Poland’s most important media outlets and newspapers, including Polityka weekly, Krytyka Polityczna quarterly and portal, Gazeta Wyborcza daily and TOK FM radio among others, and has published in La Stampa (IT) and The Forward magazine (USA). He has also published 19 mostly non-fiction books, some of which have been translated into Spanish, Italian and Russian. In 2009, he was nominated for the European Union Prize for Literature for his novel Pałac Ostrogskich.

Shortly after the publication of ‘Macierewicz and his Secrets’ (‘Macierewicz I jego tajemnice’), Macierewicz filed a criminal complaint against Piątek, alleging a violation of articles 224 and 226 of the Criminal Code and also mentioning article 231a. Article 224 criminalises the use of force or unlawful threat to influence the official acts of a government authority; article 226 pertains to publicly insulting or humiliating a constitutional authority of the Republic of Poland; and article 231a extends to public officials who are unlawfully attacked because of their position, the same legal protection that they would enjoy if attacked during or in connection with the performance of their duties.

On 11 July 2017, a spokesperson from the military department of Poland’s Office of the Prosecutor General confirmed that it had received a notification from the defence ministry. According to the spokesperson, the case is being examined, though it is unclear on the basis of which evidence.  The spokesperson offered no further explanation how the above mentioned articles of the criminal code might relate to Piątek’s book. PEN is concerned that the case is apparently being examined by the military department. Under international law, as clarified in the Draft Principles Governing the Administration of Justice Through Military Tribunals (the ‘Decaux Principles’), military courts should in principle have no jurisdiction to try civilians. States must ensure that in all circumstances civilians accused of a criminal offence of any nature are tried by civilian courts.

Under universal and regional international human rights law and standards, journalists must be able to carry out their work of commenting on public issues, informing public opinion and conveying information and opinions without harassment, threat or intimidation and must not be prosecuted for expressing views that do not amount to incitement to violence or hatred. Pursuant to the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights, the press plays a pre-eminent role in any state governed by the rule of law and affords the public one of the best means of discovering and forming an opinion of the ideas, attitudes and behaviour of their political leaders. It also gives politicians the opportunity to reflect and comment on the preoccupations of public opinion. Thus it enables everyone to participate in the free political debate that is at the very core of the concept of a democratic society.

Many international organisations have expressed concern regarding the decision by the Minister of Defence to file a criminal complaint against Tomasz Piątek, including, among others, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Désir; Amnesty International; Reporters without Border; the European Federation of Journalists; and the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom.

PEN International has been concerned in recent years that Poland’s government is using legislative, political and economic means to stifle the media and limit dissent and debate within the country.

 

For further details contact Laurens Hueting at PEN International, Koops Mill, 162-164 Abbey Street, London, SE1 2AN, UK Tel: +44 (0) 20 7405 0338 Fax +44 (0) 20 7405 0339 e-mail: laurens.hueting@pen-international.org

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