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New draft law to regulate corrections of press articles

The HFHR presented its comments on the latest legislative proposal of the regulation of correction in press law to the Senate’s Legislative Committee. In its position statement, the HFHR positively assessed the proposed modifications to the current draft amendment. The new proposals changed its previous version which received wide criticism from, among others, the Helsinki Foundation, press publishers and journalists or even the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage. 

To a large extent, the new draft incorporates the critical comments of the HFHR given in the earlier statements. Now, the HFHR would like to note that the remaining elements of the proposed amendment still need to be elaborated or supplemented.

The key change introduced by the current wording of the draft is the deletion of Article 46 of the Press Law Act, resulting in abolishing the criminal liability for a failure to publish a correction. Moreover, the modified amendment creates a single type of the response to a publication: a correction of untrue or inaccurate factual statements. This means abandoning the measure of a ‘reply’ which could be used to challenge critical statements. According to the original version of the amendment, this kind of response could be used even if the publication has not infringed the personal interests of the author of the reply. Finally, the draft establishes a special, fast-track procedure for examining correction cases.

The comments by the HFHR concern primarily the issue of online corrections. The HFHR proposes that this obligation should apply only to press materials published in portals classified as press as opposed to any other websites. According to the HFHR such other web services should be regulated by the Electronic Services Act. The draft does not specify precisely where an online correction is to be published and how the online corrected materials are to be archived. The proposed amendment also fails to regulate the “self-correction”, made by the editors of an online press article.

The HFHR’s statement reads: “We appreciate the manner in which the Senate proceeded on the discussed legislative initiative, in particular the fact that the Senate held well-designed public consultations on the proposal. Above all, praise should be given for making the information on the consultations widely accessible and enabling all the interested parties to submit their opinions on the matter. The proponents of the bill should be also commended for their real openness to the offered comments.”

Last week, the draft amendment was issued to the Sejm. By virtue of a judgment of the Constitutional Tribunal, the currently operating law on the correction will be removed from the books in mid-June.

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