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Declining air time is mobbing

The District Court of Łódź ruled in favour of journalist Jarosław Warzecha, who sought compensation from his former employer, the Łódź local branch of public radio broadcaster Polskie Radio; Warzecha had accused Polskie Radio of mobbing.The problems started when Warzecha criticised the managing director of Radio Łódź, questioning the professional competence of his superior and claiming that the latter was appointed on the basis of his political loyalty. Responding to the criticism, the director began to gradually deprive Warzecha of his programmes, directly translating into lower pay. The superior also spoke publicly and unfavourably about the journalist. Warzecha was eventually dismissed; when the court declared the termination illegal and ordered the journalist’s reinstatement at the station, the claimant’s former boss delayed enforcement of the judgement.

According to the ruling, the director’s practices clearly satisfied the legal test for establishing mobbing. The journalist sought PLN 45,000 under article 943 of the Polish Labour Code as compensation for the disturbance of his health, but was awarded only PLN 20,000 on the basis of an expert cardiologist’s opinion.

The HFHR participated in the case as a community organisation and presented its opinion at the last hearing. According to the HFHR, journalists should have the right to criticise and give opinions on changes in the management of the public media organisations in which they are employed.

The Foundation indicated that the ECHR has reiterated how crucial work conditions are for journalists’ professional missions. Taking into account the role of journalists in a democratic society, governing bodies of the public media are obliged, to a much larger extent than other employers, to ensure that their employees can work without being subjected to any undue pressure.

The case was conducted as part of the Observatory of the Freedom of Media in Poland Programme.

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