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HFHR position on dismissal of Rzeczpospolita, a national daily, journalists

“It is unacceptable for an owner of a media company to compel a journalist to disclose confidential information, in particular the identity of a confidential source”, says the HFHR commenting on the case of three journalists of Rzeczpospolita, a national daily, dismissed following the publication of an article entitled “Trotyl na wraku tupolewa” (“TNT on the wreck of the Tupolev”).

“We believe the enjoyment of the freedom of expression falls within the limits of the duties and responsibilities of the press in the context of the role it plays in a democratic society: providing reliable and verified information crucial to a public debate”, says Dr. Adam Bodnar, HFHR Deputy President.

In its statement the HFHR notes that the reporter’s privilege including the protection of confidential sources of information is a legally guaranteed right accorded to journalists and pertinent to the responsibilities of the media in a democratic society.

“The protection of journalistic sources is not only a privilege of the media professionals but, above all, their obligation. This is also a ‘right of the society’ exercised to enhance trust relationship between journalists and their informants”, reads the statement.

Moreover, the Foundation considers it unacceptable for an owner of a media company to directly compel a journalist to reveal the identity of a source. In the HFHR’s opinion, an owner of a media company does not have a completely free hand in forming the HR policy of the editorial team. Hence he or she cannot take arbitrary personnel decisions concerning employees working at a particular newspaper whenever he or she feels that a given publication may threaten his or her company’s interests.

The statement continues: “This case proved that standards of reporter’s privilege are not always complied with by the media owners”.

The Foundation’s statement also discusses the relationship between the media owner and politicians. The Foundation argues that not only journalists but also media owners should ensure that the reported information is as unbiased as possible and that the principle of pluralism of opinions is observed. The statement highlights that the owners should avoid a risk of being exposed to a charge of violating the principle of independence.

“The thing that causes the most controversy is the practice of informing government officials of planned publications”, reads the statement. According to the HFHR, it is not only the conduct of the editorial staff but also that of the owner that may threaten the credibility and independence of a given medium.

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