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HFHR on proposed amendment to press law

The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights has reached out to the Speaker of the Sejm in connection with a proposal of an amendment to the Press Law Act and some other Acts, which was submitted to the Sejm on 19 October 2018 by Kukiz’15 parliamentary grouping.

The proposal introduces a direct ban on any involvement of local government authorities in the newspaper publishing business. The ban is supposed to apply to all levels of local government in Poland. The proposed measure seeks to address and eliminate one of the most serious threats to freedom of speech at the local level, namely the practice of publishing newspapers by local government units. “This practice raises concerns regarding its conformity to a number of constitutional values, including the guarantees of freedom of speech and citizens’ right to information. In consequence, it needs to be changed by appropriate legal reforms”, says Dominika Bychawska-Siniarska, a member of the HFHR Board.

For the above reasons, the HFHR called on the Speaker of the Sejm to refer the proposal for further deliberations and to grant it the status of a parliamentary paper. At the same time, the HFHR stated that the ban should apply not only to local government units, but also to organisations financed by local government (e.g. community centres) and companies owned by, or affiliated to, local government bodies of all levels.

The HFHR’s position statement regarding the proposed law was developed as part of a project for the provision of legal assistance to journalists, sponsored by Media Legal Defence Initiative.

The full text of the statement can be found here.

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