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Circuit Court dismissed appeal of journalists with local weekly

The Circuit Court in Poznań dismissed the appeal of two journalists working for the Wiadomości Wrzesińskie weekly, brought against the judgment of a Poznań District Court in the case of disclosure of secret information (case no. IV Ka 351/13). The appellate court upheld the first instance decision to conditionally dismiss the criminal proceedings instituted against the defendants and set the 12-month probation period. The journalists were also ordered to pay the costs of the proceedings. The judgement is final.

The facts of the case are that the defendants published an article containing information from the proceedings which were closed to the public. They were charged despite the fact that they had been granted a court’s leave to access the case records, which had not set any restrictions as to the purpose of use of the disclosed information. Furthermore, the journalists made it clear in the application that they intended to write a press article.

In the oral reasons for the judgment, the Circuit Court shared the view expressed by the first instance court and held that the reporters had committed the offence of an unauthorised disclosure of information on the closed-door proceedings. The Court further held that a prior leave of the district court provided no defence for the accused. According to the appellate court, the defendants, as professional journalists, should have been aware that a public disclosure of information contained in confidential case records may result in criminal liability.

Dominika Bychawska-Siniarska, a lawyer with the HFHR, comments: “We hoped that the judgment in the case of Wiadomości Wrzesińskie would re-define the judicial approach to the role of journalists in court trials closed to the public. The decision of the Circuit Court in Poznań is illogical: a court granting a journalist the leave to access case records should have set clear-cut boundaries of the acceptable use of the materials. It is in the public interest that journalists cover court cases. Erratic practices of courts will discourage them from performing this crucial role.”

In connection with the discussed case, the Foundation sent a letter to the Minister of Justice, calling for establishing uniform rules guiding disclose of court trial records to members of the press.

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