Last Thursday, the Editor-in-Chief and publisher of the Gazeta Polska weekly lost a personal injury lawsuit brought by Bartosz Kramek before the court of second instance. They are now required to publish an apology on page 2 of Gazeta Polska and pay a total of PLN 25,000 in compensation.
Bartosz Kramek sued Tomasz Sakiewicz for the August 2017 cover of Gazeta Polska depicting a group of Wehrmacht soldiers under the title: “A New September Campaign. We Know the Plans for the Autumn Coup”. The cover picture was a photomontage; one of German soldiers was given the face of Bartosz Kramek, the husband of Lyudmyla Kozlovska, President of the Open Dialogue Foundation.
Initially, the plaintiff demanded PLN 30,000 in compensation, and the publication of an apology on the cover page of Gazeta Polska, as well as the payment of PLN 20,000 to the Centre for Women’s Rights. In July 2021, the court of first instance awarded damages of PLN 15,000 in favour of Mr Kramek, as well as the donation of PLN 10,000 in favour of the Centre for Women’s Rights, and an apology on the cover of Gazeta Polska. The lawyers representing Gazeta Polska have appealed against the judgment.
“The changes in the judgment were clearly cosmetic”
On Thursday, the District Court in Warsaw upheld the judgment, and the only change regarded the locating of the apology – instead of on the cover, it is to be displayed on page 2 of the weekly magazine. The payment is to be made jointly by Tomasz Sakiewicz and Niezależne Wydawnictwo Polskie. Moreover, the unsuccessful party has been obliged to cover the legal costs of the second instance proceedings in the amount of PLN 3,200.
“During the first instance proceedings, neither myself, nor my witnesses were allowed to take part in the trial, and the judge did not even hide the fact that he sided with Kramek. The changes made in the judgment by the court of second instance were clearly ostensible,” said Tomasz Sakiewicz in an interview with Niezależna.pl and added, “In Poland, satire is not a punishable offence, and the cover is, after all, satirical in nature.”
However, the court ruled that the satirical nature of the photoshopped image “does not exclude the violation of personal rights”, and the Gazeta Polska cover constituted a stigmatising and slandering of Bartosz Kramek.
Cover-related problems faced by Sakiewicz
This was yet another court case involving a Gazeta Polska cover. In July, members of the Civic Platform announced that they were going to bring two lawsuits against Gazeta Polska for its cover depicting Donald Tusk as Adolf Hitler, with a shadow under his nose forming a distinctive moustache, and the caption ‘Gott mit uns’. The third lawsuit is to be brought by Mr Tusk’s lawyers.
In January, Professor Marek Safjan, Judge at the EU Court of Justice, filed a personal injury lawsuit against the publisher of Gazeta Polska and against its Editor-in-Chief Tomasz Sakiewicz and journalist Piotr Lisiewicz. The lawsuit concerned last year’s article about Mr Safjan’s father. The cover of the weekly then featured Professor Safjan’s father, as well as the protagonists of the TV series Stakes Larger than Life, Hans Kloss (Stanisław Mikulski) and Herman Brunner (Emil Karewicz) in Nazi uniforms, supplemented with court bibs.
Meanwhile, last December, the District Court in Gliwice ruled that Sakiewicz and the publisher of his weekly had to apologise to deputy Borys Budka of the Civic Platform, and pay a donation of PLN 10,000 in favour of the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity Foundation. Mr Budka filed a lawsuit in connection with a Gazeta Polska cover featuring his picture and the caption: “They Spread Plague and Death”. The cover was released in November 2019.
The average total sales of Gazeta Polska in the first quarter of this year amounted to 19,831 copies, comprising 18,253 copies of the printed edition and 1,578 copies of the electronic edition (according to the PBC Polish Readership Survey).
In other media:
- OKO.press: MEP Tarczynski and editor-in-chief of “Gazeta Polska”, Sakiewicz, lost their lawsuits against ODF. They must apologise (August 22, 2022)
- Gazeta Wyborcza: Libellers must apologise and pay for the cover story (August 12, 2022)
- Onet: Sakiewicz must apologise for the cover of “Gazeta Polska” (August 11, 2022)
- Dziennik: Sakiewicz must apologise for the cover of “Gazeta Polska”. There’s a court decision (August 11, 2022)