In its judgment, the court has crushed the public broadcaster and ruled that it must apologise to the couple in charge of ODF for its repeated lies, insinuations and manipulations regarding them. TVP is also to pay over PLN 260 000 in damages.
The JUDGMENT in the four-year-long litigation for infringement of personal rights brought to court by the Open Dialogue Foundation and its leaders, Bartosz Kramek (in the picture) and Lyudmyla Kozlovska, and Kramek’s company named ‘Silk Road Biuro Analiz i Informacji’ was handed down in mid-June.
The Regional Court in Warsaw, 2nd Civil Division (Sąd Okręgowy w Warszawie II Wydział Cywilny) took 19 pages to precisely detail for what and where TVP is to apologise to the married couple of pro-democracy activists, their foundation and the company. Within 14 days of the judgment becoming final and non-appealable (it was the first-instance ruling), TVP is to publish a statement in which it ‘apologises’ to Kozlovska, Kramek and ODF for violating their personal rights, ‘in particular the right to a good name, including reputation and good standing (…) by disseminating damaging and untrue information in numerous publications and films’. The apology is to conclude with the following wording: ‘This statement is issued as a result of a lost lawsuit’.
The content of the apology statement is to be signed, printed and scanned, and displayed to viewers/web users in a digital form. The court has specified its exact look and ruled that TVP is to keep the apology published for 60 days at the top section of its website, above all other content.
The statement with the apology is to be published at the following websites:
– www.polandin.com (in an English-language version).
Polish Public TV (TVP) was also ordered to broadcast the apology in the main edition of the news (“Wiadomości”) at 7:30 p.m. as the first piece of news. The court has made this explicit because TVP has a track record of apologising to a private television (TVN) journalist by starting the news earlier, at 7:25 p.m., so that viewers who switch the TV on at 7:30 p.m. would not see it. The text is also to be read out at a speed that ‘should be such that it is comprehensible to the average viewer’, while the broadcasting time must not be less than 30 seconds.
The same procedure is to be repeated in several other TVP Info (Info TV) programme services and in the Twitter profile of the news service. In addition, notices are to be published above those materials that defame Kozlovska, Kramek and ODF and are still present at the TVP website. The court has listed the web addresses of more than 30 such materials, some of which are in English language.
The activists are also to receive a hard copy of the apology signed by TVP representatives.
Over PLN 260 000 in damages
The court awarded PLN 60 000 of damages to each of Kramek, Kozlovska and ODF and PLN 20 000 to Silk Road plus interest accrued from 17 October 2019. According to the statutory interest calculator at Gofin.pl website, the value of interest by 29 June 2023 totals PLN 60 000 and PLN 224 390 respectively. In total, therefore, TVP would have to pay more than PLN 260 000 to ODF and its leaders.
Lyudmyla Kozlovska has commented on the judgment: “It takes years to rectify defamation and achieve justice. At the end hardly anyone remembers what it was all about, and the impression remains that it doesn’t matter whether a person was the one who stole or was stolen from. ‘He was involved in theft,’ this is what is exploited by propaganda, and TVP has no scruples. This is how it works in authoritarian regimes and, unfortunately, also in the PiS-ruled Poland.
What distinguishes Poland from those regimes are the still largely free courts…, or, rather, courageous judges.
I would therefore like our example to demonstrate to others that it is worth fighting for one’s rights”.
Bartosz Kramek adds, “If TVP propaganda does differ from Russian propaganda in anything, it is perhaps only that it does not discuss, in its programme services, the use of nuclear weapons against external enemies. Serving the ruling party, disinformation, the worst kind of slander, hate speech, dehumanisation and demonisation of the ruling party’s opponents, appealing to the lowest of the social emotions have long since become its hallmarks”.
‘Exceptionally perfidious manipulation’, ‘direct violation of personal rights’
The lawsuit that ODF and its leaders filed against TVP in October 2019 concerns nearly 40 materials that appeared on public television channels. In these materials, Bartosz Kramek, Lyudmyla Kozlovska, ODF and Silk Road were accused by TVP employees of, among other charges: “espionage, terrorist operations, organising a coup d’état, illegal financing, and moral scandals,” says ODF.
The Foundation and its activists claimed that, in its fight against them, the public broadcaster was using fake news, manipulation, information ‘leaked’ by special services and tax authorities and from sources of ‘dubious quality’, i.e. from countries of the former USSR (Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Moldova), where ODF and Kozlovska already had a lot of opponents due to their support for pro-democracy oppositionists.
As recently as September 2019, the court granted a preventive injunction to the ODF. As a result, the TVP at Woronicza Street removed some of the defamatory material from the web, including all the recordings of TVP’s news (‘Wiadomości’) referred to by ODF. The court also ordered the public broadcaster to publish a notice under approx. 40 publications on its website with a statement that the allegations in the given publication are “the grounds for a lawsuit for the protection of personal rights against TVP S.A.”
In the statement of reasons for this ruling, the judge Mariusz Solka has basically crashed the Woronicza-based broadcaster. The Judge mentioned ‘exceptionally perfidious manipulation’ and found repeated instances of “direct violation of personal rights”, “assessments of facts that have nothing to do with reality”, “utterly one-sided coverage”, presentation of ODF people with disregard to facts, furnishing false information about them, etc.
What specifically did TVP claim in its defamatory materials?
- They connected ODF with the Panama Papers leak and Russia, portrayed it as a ‘tax fraud’, and alleged that ODF is financed by the Russian defence industry.
- Lyudmyla Kozlovska was depicted as a person who is dangerous for Poland, involved in illegal and murky practices.
- Kramek was described as an “aggressive troublemaker” who seeks “solution by force”.
The court also reproached TVP for accusations based on reports by anonymous bloggers, Russian-controlled media, etc.
A corresponding injunction was executed by Polish Radio (Polskie Radio) in the spring of 2020.
ODF and members of its board have also filed civil lawsuits against 19 Law and Justice (PiS) propagandist politicians who conveyed similar information to the media. Several of these lawsuits have already been won by the Foundation or members of its board, including lawsuits against MEP Dominik Tarczyński or Tomasz Sakiewicz, who are in charge of management of the pro-government media centred around the “Gazeta Polska” weekly.
‘I think PiS treated us as one of their own’
Why has PiS launched such a powerful attack against the husband and wife, Kramek and Kozlovska, and their organisation? The Open Dialogue Foundation, and particularly its President, Lyudmyla Kozlovska, who is Ukrainian, have supported the Maidan and Ukraine on its path towards democracy. For many years, Law and Justice (PiS) politicians cooperated with her, with the ODF, and later also with Kramek. They were presenters at their events, travelled east on missions together. Bartosz Kramek says, “I think PiS treated us as one of their own.”
This changed in 2017, when PiS began to politicise the administration of justice in Poland. In the summer, during the massive demonstrations againstthree legislative acts according PiS the power over the courts, Bartosz Kramek published his famous call “Let the State Come to a Stop: Let’s Shut Down the Government!” In it, he called for civil disobedience against the authority that was treading an authoritarian path.
Open Dialogue became a public enemy
Law and Justice (PiS) sent numerous audits to ODF, the Internal Security Agency (ABW) accused it of money laundering, and in August 2018, Lyudmyla Kozlovska was expelled from Schengen countries on the allegation that she was a threat to state security, for which the ruling party has failed to provide evidence to date. This transpired at the request of the special services led by Minister Wąsik and Minister Kamiński who had previously cooperated with ODF. During that time, a massive propaganda attack was launched in the pro-government media against the ODF and its leaders.
A little later Kramek was subjected to surveillance in the hotels of Polish Hotel Holding, and two years later he was detained for a month. Despite having won several lawsuits in this case, Lyudmyla Kozlovska has still not been allowed into Poland. Currently, we are the only country in the Union that bans her entry. Globally, she is also banned from entering Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan – the regimes against which Kozlovska supported the pro-democracy opposition.
The list of those winning against the broadcaster is expanding
TVP has been losing its court cases one by one. Only recently it had to apologise to:
– Monika Olejnik,
– Bertold Kitel – journalist of the private network TVN,
– Publisher of the “Gazeta Wyborcza” daily,
– Judge Piotr Gąciarek,
– The Foundation for the Development of Local Democracy (Fundacja Rozwoju Demokracji Lokalnej),
– The Campaign Against Homophobia (Kampania Przeciwko Homofobii),
– The City and Commune of Gdańsk.
The list of those who won litigations against the “good change” TVP in recent years is much longer.
- Polish state broadcaster TVP forced to apologise and pay damages following court verdict (July 4, 2023)
- Onet: The Open Dialogue Foundation Wins Against the Polish Public TV (TVP): Apologies and PLN 200 000 of Compensatory Damages (June 29, 2023)
- Gazeta Wyborcza: The Open Dialogue Foundation has faulted Law and Justice. Now they win court battle after battle, recently against state TVP (July 2, 2023)
- Press: TVP is to apologise to the Open Dialogue Foundation at the beginning of “Wiadomości” news service and pay compensation of PLN 200,000 (July 3, 2023)
- Wirtualne Media: TVP is to apologise to the Open Dialogue Foundation at the beginning of “Wiadomości” news service and pay compenstation of PLN 200,000 (July 3, 2023)
- Salon24: TVP has to apologise the Foundation run by Kramek and Kozlovska. The Open Dialogue has won in court (July 3, 2023)
- Spider’s Web: TVP lost in court. It must apologise to the Open Dialogue Foundation (July 3, 2023)
- Gazeta.pl: TVP must broadcast the apology as the first piece of news in “Wiadomości” news service. The court precisely designated the specific time of the broadcast (July 3, 2023)