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Poland: Prosecuted Blogger Hopes For a Different Verdict

Łukasz Kasprowicz

Łukasz Kasprowicz

Two weeks ago, Global Voices reported about a Polish blogger, Łukasz Kasprowicz, who had been sued for criticising a local mayor and, after losing in court, was banned from blogging (and writing). The case was well reported by the mainstream media in Poland and, for a few days, the amount of news was amazing: never did one blogger in Poland draw so much attention. The case is no longer in the public spotlight, but Łukasz continues his fight for a new verdict in a court of a higher instance.

Background

Łukasz Kasprowicz lives in Mosina, a rather small town in western Poland. He works for a local paper called Faktów Mosińsko-Puszczykowskich, runs a blog mosina.blox.pl (the one which put him in trouble), and is also a member of the local council, representing citizens of Mosina. It should be noted here that he was representing the opposite committee than the Mayor in the last elections.

Łukasz's blog

Below are some of the blog posts that pushed Mayor Zofia Springer into going to court against the blogger.

>> The Mayor's decisions:

Can we risk a thesis that slow actions of our officials, including those of Zofia Springer, may have three reasons: maliciousness of the officials, waiting for bribes for positive decisions or speeding up some cases, and, the third, a lack of knowledge and ignorance of the law? It's also strange that in some cases Zofia Springer is very understanding, and decides on localizations for local investors on terrains where there is no local plan of usage.

>> Silence about the swimming pool:

We will have a swimming pool. A good joke. And maybe two ice parks, and a radio and TV station in Mosina? Zofia Springer sold the land (apparently for the Aquapark construction) for, as professionals say, silly money. OK. The goal is noble – a swimming pool – a nice thing to have, and no one is denying its need to exist in Mosina. Unfortunately, the case of its construction is fairly strange. Zofia Springer said that the investor would present an investment plan by mid-July. July has passed – and there's nothing. In autumn, Zofia Springer informed that she would present the plan by mid-December. It's mid-January now – and there's nothing. I was told that Springer was forcing the company to do something, so at least construction equipment would show up on the site and she could tell that the process has started. The local council is starting a new infrastructure plan for the region. And it may happen that the investor will be able to change the purpose of the acquired land. Instead of the Aquapark, we will have apartments. There are only old houses around. Someone might decide that the Aquapark does not fit in well with the surrounding family buildings. Are there any reasons for us to doubt that the swimming pool will appear? Comment.

>> Is the county sponsoring a bank?

From the 12 million PLN planned last year, 4 million was not spent on any investments. The money was deposited in one of Mosina's banks on a special account, and the bank is making other loans on this, investing and earning profit. It's interesting whether the offer of [this local bank] is so attractive that our money is located there?

Conviction

Kasprowicz was prosecuted, and the judge gave him the following punishment in the verdict:

  • not to work in his profession for a year
  • to pay 500 PLN fee to the Polish Red Cross
  • 10 months of limited freedom + 300 hours of community service
  • to publish apologies in the local newspaper Głos Wielkopolski
  • to cover the cost of psychological and psychiatric tests (3 items)

and so the buzz started…

Mainstream media pick up the story

Newsweek: Blogger convicted because he criticised Mrs Mayor
Polska The Times: Court ruling for criticising Mayor of Mosina.
TVN24: Journalist prosecuted for criticising local Mayor
Gazeta Wyborcza: Silenced for making officials nervous
Wprost: Banned to write for making local mayor look bad

Others

The National Broadcasting Council issued a special statement:

NBC is not going into the details of the private conflict between a local politician and a journalist, but we are very worried about the issued verdict.

[...]

We remind that, according to the Constitutional Tribunal, freedom of the press is one of the key guarantees of a democratic system. Its duty is to provide the free society with the news and ideas, without interference by the government or officials.

NBC statement

NBC statement

The blogosphere

Global Voices reported on the initial reactions to this case. Since then, many others have commented on it, including Paweł Lipiec, who wrote:

I am interested how such a ban (to write as a journalist and to blog) can be executed? I am omitting all the problems mentioned by [Piotr Vagla Waglowski, on his blog about Internet and law] that there's no legal definition of a blog. But who is to keep this guy from writing on some international platform?

A short video interview with the blogger (in Polish):

Also, Piotr Wajszczak, who is helping Łukasz with promoting his case in the social media and who was one of the first bloggers to pay close attention to it, has an interesting point in one of the Facebook notes:

Why the media went all crazy, is it about the fault or the verdict?

There is a huge chaos in the media about Łukasz's case. Some of you are probably wondering if it's all about him being guilty or the verdict itself. [...]

The Helsinki Foundation is not talking about whether Łukasz is guilty or not, but that the ruling is very harsh. In other words, no one is saying that Mrs Mayor is not allowed to defend her good name, because everyone can feel and fight for his/her good name. The [media] storm is all about the sanctions, especially since the public prosecutor did not see any crime in the Mayor's accusation and did not even open the case.

The demand for 10,000 PLN and a 5-year-ban on doing one's primary job + psychological consultancy – is it all about restoring the good name of Mrs Mayor or is it only about silencing the blogger who made her nervous?

[...]

Everyone has to judge whether those demands are adequate or not.

If Mrs Mayor only wanted apologies and some financial restitution, no one would say a word. Those sanctions exist in any normally functioning states! This is why there is no storm about whether Łukasz is innocent or not – the storm is about the verdict, which is more about silencing the blogger than restoring someone's good name. Even the Helsinki Foundation is not denying that the verdict could have been in the Mayor's favor, as she might have felt insulted – but the blogger is about to be silenced.

What's next?

Łukasz Kasprowicz now has a lawyer (previously, he only had a public defender), who is helping with such cases for the Helsinki Foundation. The case has gone to the second-instance district court. The blogger hopes that at least parts of the first verdict will be overturned, but he has no hopes for a full dismissal of the case.

The best way to follow this story is via a special Facebook Page.

For now, Łukasz continues to blog.

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