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Court of Appeal: no interim injunction in libel case. HFHR files amicus curiae brief

♦ The Court of Appeal in Warsaw has reversed a decision of the first instance court and dismissed the motion for an interim injunction prohibiting Mariusz Zielke’s publications about Krzysztof Sadowski.

♦ Mr Zielke initially received a one-year ban on disseminating information on the paedophile acts allegedly committed by Mr Sadowski, imposed in September by the Regional Court in Warsaw.

♦ The HFHR has submitted an amicus curiae brief in the case to the Court of Appeal. The reversal is final.

Interim injunction after a string of articles

In August 2019, journalist Mariusz Zielke published several articles in which he accused well-known musician Krzysztof Sadowski of having committed paedophile acts. Mr Sadowski denied the accusations and filed for an interim injunction against the journalist seeking to protect his personal rights claim. He demanded, among other things, that the journalist should remove the existing reporting pieces from circulation and ask the court for banning Mr Zielke from making any further publications on the subject. In September, the Regional Court granted the injunction, prohibiting Mr Zielke from disseminating information on the alleged paedophile acts imputed to the musician for the period of one year (i.e. the maximum single term permitted by law). The court denied the remaining interim remedies sought by Mr Sadowski. The journalist appealed against the ruling to the Court of Appeal, which on 5 December reversed the Regional Court’s order and denied the interim injunction motion on all counts, effectively lifting the ban on further publications.

HFHR files an amicus curiae brief

In November, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights submitted an amicus curiae brief to the Court of Appeal. Referring to the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights, the Foundation recalled that the ban on further dissemination of information is a form of preventive restriction which constitutes a particularly dangerous type of interference with freedom of expression and must be applied with great caution and only in exceptional cases. According to the ECtHR, in order to be admissible, the ban must be formulated narrowly and should not deprive anyone of the opportunity to speak out on a matter which gives rise to a legitimate public interest.

Interim injunctions against publication – a recurring problem

The HFHR has been long emphasizing the threats to freedom of speech posed by the excessively broad application of interim injunctions in personal rights cases. In 2014, the Foundation filed an application with the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Dr Wojciech Krysztofiak (the application is yet to be examined), and last year the HFHR made a statement on the interim injunction relief sought in a case of the corruption scandal in the Polish Financial Supervision Authority.

The amicus curiae brief in Mariusz Zielke’s case was prepared as part of a project of legal aid for journalists and bloggers financed by Media Legal Defense Initiative.

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