On 10 October 2019, the Open Dialogue Foundation filed a series of lawsuits against politicians representing the Law and Justice party and the media machine supporting them. All these claims were presented by ODF at a press conference last Thursday. The District Court in Warsaw also granted us an interim measure against Polish state television (TVP).
Lawsuits have been filed against the following leading Law and Justice politicians (all defendants have been asked to publish notes of apology in the media and to pay damages in the amounts indicated in brackets: Krystyna Pawłowicz MP (PLN 15 000), Jacek Saryusz-Wolski MEP (PLN 30 000), Witold Waszczykowski MEP, former foreign minister (PLN 30 000), Joachim Brudziński MEP, former interior minister (PLN 30 000), Ryszard Czarnecki MEP (PLN 30 000), Dominik Tarczyński MP (PLN 15 000), Patryk Jaki MEP, former deputy justice minister (PLN 15 000), Maciej Wąsik MP, secretary of state in the prime minister’s chancellery (PLN 30 000) and deputy foreign minister Szymon Szynkowski vel Sęk MP (PLN 30 000).
Other defendants include a number of publishers and editors-in-chief of the Sieci weekly (Fratria, Jacek Karnowski) and wPolityce.pl (Fratria, Marzena Nykiel) and the editor-in-chief of Gazeta Polska (Tomasz Sakiewicz). Private indictments have been filed by the Foundation against several journalists such as Marek Pyza, Marcin Wikło and Wojciech Biedroń.
Moreover, ODF has also filed lawsuits against far right-wing columnist Witold Gadowski, blogger Marcin Rey and activist Balli Marzec (who are responsible for numerous slanders meant to damage ODF’s reputation). Meanwhile, earlier this year, in August, lawsuits were filed against Polish state broadcasters TVP (PLN 200 000) and Polskie Radio (PLN 200 000).
On 25 September the District Court in Warsaw found sufficient prima facie evidence to secure the Foundation’s claims by obligating TVP to publish nearly 40 announcements on its website to notify the audience of the proceedings which had been instituted against it. Hence, TVP is forced to question the reliability of its own coverage of any issues related to ODF. To reach such a decision, the Court took into consideration numerous infringements of the personal interest of the Open Dialogue Foundation including, among others, ‘manipulations’, ‘obscure allegations’, ‘lack of specific evidence’, ‘inaccuracies’, ‘assessment of facts having nothing to do with reality’, and ‘completely biased opinions’.
The defendants have accused ODF of espionage, terrorist activity, preparation of a coup d’état, illegal financing and moral scandals, among others. They used fake news, manipulation and “leaked” information gathered by Polish services and tax authorities, and finally, highly questionable sources from post-Soviet countries (i.e. Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Moldova).
The conflict between Law and Justice and the Open Dialogue Foundation was ignited in July 2017 following ODF activist Bartosz Kramek‘s statement on civil disobedience in response to attempted violations of the independence of the judiciary in Poland. In August 2018, the Law and Justice government executed a short-term expulsion from the EU of ODF President Lyudmyla Kozlovska. Since that time, the Foundation and its leadership have won a number of lawsuits against state authorities. Lyudmyla Kozlovska has been granted permanent resident status in Belgium, and the Polish authorities were forced to remove her EU entry ban.
We would like to kindly thank our attorneys of Lach Janas Biernat Law Office (Maciej Lach, Dawid Biernat, Adrianna Gumowska) for the great commitment and enormous efforts they all have made in order to prepare the lawsuits. We would also like to thank all of you for your solidarity and presence at the Thursday a press conference. We would like, in particular, to highlight civil society media such as Obywatele.news, Video-KOD, and civil society journalists such as: Mariusz Malinowski, Włodek Ciejka as well as photographers: Katarzyna Pierzchała, JohnBoB & Sophie Art and Wiesław Piasecki.
Finally, we should not forget about the ODF team who made it all possible.
- List of proceedings and examples of personal interest violations
- Summary of the decision issued by the District Court in Warsaw on 25 September on ODF vs. TVP
- Decision issued by the District Court in Warsaw on 25 September on ODF vs. TVP (full text)
- Summary of damage claims (i.e. civil actions)
- Video-KOD: Recording of the event broadcast
- Obywatele.news (implementation: Włodek Ciejka): A fragment of the recording from the press conference
- “The time has come to pay for those attacks” – Onet.pl on the Foundation’s lawsuits against PiS
- “The court’s decision sounds like a verdict on the Law & Justice Party propaganda.” Obywatele.news reports on the Open Dialogue Foundation’s press conference
- Press.pl on a ‘quick appeal’ by Press Freedom Monitoring Centre of the Union of Polish Journalists concerning ODF’s press conference
- Gazeta Wyborcza: “Ukrainian Lyudmyla Kozlovska: Law and Justice took my second homeland but did not take away hope”
- Bartosz Kramek for Gazeta Wyborcza: PiS, Moldova – a common issue
- “Gazeta Polska” and Tomasz Sakiewicz lost the dispute in court with the Open Dialogue Foundation
- Attack against the rule of law and civil society in Poland – a debate during the OSCE HDIM 2017 conference
- Onet: Law and Justice Party targets assaults on NGOs. NGOs say Enough: time to strike back