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Polish Security Printing Works’ boycott of Newsweek’s publisher unreasonably interferes with freedom of speech

The Polish Security Printing Works (PWPW S.A.) has issued a statement in which the company said it would not provide information to newspapers published by Ringier Axel Springer Polska. The statement was issued in response to the questions regarding the company officers’ participation in holy masses, which were asked by a reporter of Newsweek. The reporter explained that the question related to the company’s business.

The statement reads: “Until this case is explained and the Board of PWPW S.A. receives an apology, the company suspends cooperation with the newspapers published by Ringier Axel Springer and will ignore any attempts of obtaining information by journalists employed by this publisher”.

In the assessment of the HFHR, by limiting the possibility of gathering information about the business of a company owned by the State Treasury, the corporate authorities of PWPW unreasonably interfere with the freedom of speech. This may result in depriving the public of access to important information, and this category most certainly includes information about the operations of corporate entities of this kind, and in particular information about any unveiled internal irregularities.

Dorota Głowacka, a lawyer working for the HFHR, commented on the case, explaining that if the questions were not asked publicly but only presented to representatives of the organisation, then the allegations of PWPW are without merit. “An interference would occur if a journalist published information about, say, a person’s private life. Only then we may wonder if this interference was acceptable and reasonable. This would depend on factors such as whether an article’s sole purpose was to create excitement or whether there was a public interest in publishing it – for example, because it concerned a public person or was related to this person’s public activity and in this way referred to matters that raise reasonable public interest”, Ms Głowacka said.

The lawyer also said that there was no justification for refusing cooperation with the publisher until apologies are given because directing questions to a subject of a planned article is also a method of collecting information. This is a key element of journalistic work, which receives strong protection under the press law. Ms Głowacka also underscored that PWPW Board’s response to the questions asked was very alarming.  “It is worth noting that from the perspective of the press law, all kinds of obstacles to the collection of information by journalists, especially to information concerning matters of important public significance, interfere with journalists’ freedom of speech and may even give rise to the allegation that a person creating such obstacles impedes media criticism”, Dorota Głowacka adds.

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