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HFHR statement in another case of surveillance of journalists

The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights is concerned by the information about actions taken by the Military Circuit Prosecution Office in Poznań who requested the disclosure of the phone data of three journalists of national media investigating the crash of the presidential plane near Smolensk, Russia.

The HFHR is particularly alarmed by the fact that in this case law enforcement authorities not only have obtained billing information, but also requested release of the contents of text messages.

In the Foundation’s opinion, such a conduct of the authorities may result in circumventing the safeguards under the reporter’s privilege, a necessary condition to enforce the right to freedom of expression and freedom of media enshrined in articles 14 and 54 of the Poland’s Constitution and article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The reporter’s privilege, granted under article 180 of the Polish Code of Criminal Procedure and article 15 of the Press Act, guarantees, among other things, the protection of personal sources of information used by journalists. Meanwhile, the information obtained by the prosecution service enables the prosecutors to identify journalists’ sources.

It is questionable whether law enforcement authorities should be given access to communication between journalists and their informants by being freely able to view the contents of text messages. According to the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights such a practice of the authorities constitutes an infringement of the secrecy of correspondence guaranteed under article 49 of the Constitution and article 8 of the ECHR.

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