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The Polish parliament has also passed a widely criticised change to Poland’s anti-defamation law, which makes it a crime for anyone to accuse “the Polish Nation” of complicity in Nazi war crimes.
In light of these “reforms” some good, and long awaited, amendments pass unnoticed.
On 12 December 2017 the change to the Press Law was enacted. The Polish Press Law originally drafted in 1984 has long been criticised for being outdated and reflecting in many aspects the communist idea of press “independence”. For example, a journalist is no longer under the obligation to follow the generally established editorial line of a newspaper or programme.
The journalist may refuse to publish any material that breaches the principles of objectivity, reliability and professional care. Moreover, he or she may deny publication consent if changes introduced to content distort the meaning or sense of the publication.
Before changes in 2017, Polish Press Law had not regulated the issue of authorisation. Some court decisions and legal commentators derived the obligation to seek authorisation from the general duties of care and diligence imposed on mass media.
But some also pointed out that no such obligation was formulated in the law therefore journalists could not be penalised for not authorising someone’s statement. Consequently, many quoted or cited statements were misinterpreted and misleading.
Currently, unless a quoted statement is identical, journalists may be subject to a fine if statements are not authorised by a source. Reporters must inform interviewees about their right to authorise the statement before the interview starts.
The authorisation should be notified without delay and should take place within six hours in the case of dailies and 24 hours in the case of other newspapers/ magazines.
All deadlines start from the moment the text is provided to the source. Where deadlines are not met it is presumed that precisely quoted content was authorised for publication with no reservations.
The questions that are wildly asked are the following: Will the amendments have any impact on the fast changing media environment? Will the “freshened” Press Law will remain outdated anyway? Will any media other than traditional and reputable ones follow the new obligations?
We will see the answers very quickly. Unfortunately despite the long awaited changes to the Press Law, the general level of news and journalism in Poland, in many areas, continues to decline and disrespect the principles of professional care and objectivism.
Agnieszka Wiercinska-Kruzewska is a co-founder and senior partner at WKB, head of intellectual property and TMT team, also closely cooperates with the M&A team. A graduate of the Faculty of Law and Administration at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, As a holder of the Soros Foundation scholarship at the Central European University in Budapest she completed an LL.M course in international commercial law. She advises clients on all aspects of copyright, industrial property, consumer law, unfair competition, personal data protection, internet domains, press law and protection of personal rights. Agnieszka has also extensive experience in legal advisory services concerning sensitive product marketing and gambling. Within her areas of practice, apart from providing ongoing advice, she represents clients in litigation and arbitration proceedings. She has many years’ experience in the acquisition of companies on private market.
Will Changes to Polish Press Law have a Significant Impact?
WKB Wiercinska, Kwiecinski, Baehr
The Polish legal system is undergoing substantial changes. One could argue that some of these new laws may well be contributing to the judicial independence and the principle of the rule of law.
The adopted changes for example have substantially marginalised the importance of the Constitutional Tribunal, and raised questions concerning the independence of courts and judges.