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Journalist accused of defamation in interrogative email: case dropped

A Warsaw’s District Court has discontinued the defamation proceedings brought against J.J., the editor-in-chief of kompromatRP.pl web portal. The court held that the accused’s conduct had not been illegal. The HFHR observed the case.

The case involved a journalist working on an article about the company Q who emailed an employee of Q’s PR firm a list of questions, asking for a comment. Q perceived the questions as a violation of their corporate goodwill and brought defamation charges against the journalist even though the article ultimately has not been published.

The accusation was based on the assumption that the PR agency’s employee was a third party vis-a-vis Q, whereas defamation is considered a criminal offence where defaming allegations are presented to not only the defamed but also at least one other person. However, the court has not accepted the arguments of the private accuser, holding that an employee of the company’s PR firm cannot be considered a third party for the purposes of the case.

“We are pleased with the court’s decision. If the journalist had been convicted, this would have been a dangerous precedent that could cause the so-called “freezing effect” for journalists who collect information for publication and are willing to verify different allegations at their source”, commented Dorota Głowacka, coordinator of the HFHR’s Observatory of the Freedom of Media in Poland.

The ruling is not yet final.

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