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HFHR protests against police monitoring of Tell No One screenings

The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights is concerned over the reports that the police monitors all public screenings of Tell No One, the recently released documentary on child abuse by Catholic priests.

In a letter sent today to Chief Commissioner of the Police Jarosław Szymczyk, the HFHR noted that these police activities are problematic in the context of the right to privacy, freedom of expression and assembly, and asked for explanations regarding their purpose and the legal basis.

Collection of information on individuals in democratic state ruled by law

The HFHR recalled that, according to the Constitution, public authorities cannot collect or record information about citizens unless such collection or recording is necessary in a democratic state ruled by law, and that any interference with privacy must be useful, necessary and proportionate to the achievement of certain values.

“The collection of information about citizens planning to publicly screen a film, which the police justified by pointing to the fact that the work in question evokes ‘strong emotions’, is very likely to be incompatible with the above-mentioned requirements. Although security and public order are constitutional values, they may be protected by other means that are less intrusive to rights of individuals”, the letter reads.

Chilling effect

Police actions are all the more alarming in the context of the protection of freedom of expression and assembly. “Even if, as the National Police Headquarters spokesperson said, officers do not interfere with the screenings, their presence may have the chilling effect of discouraging individuals from organising or participating in these events due to the concerns that they may be treated as persons of interest by law enforcement authorities. This chilling effect is even more worrying as the documentary concerns matters of vital public interest that are currently subject to intense public debate and of which the public has the right to be informed without undue interference from public authorities”, notes the HFHR in its letter.

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