Pro bono: Defamation and freedom of expression

29.05.2020

On 28 May 2020 the European Court of Human Rights struck from the docket the complaint in Kasprowicz v Poland after the Polish government admitted to infringing the freedom of expression of a blogger criticising the mayor of Mosina, and promised to pay him EUR 3,000 in compensation. One of the blogger’s attorneys was Artur Pietryka.

Łukasz Kasprowicz operated a blog from 2008 in which he criticised the actions of the mayor of the Polish town of Mosina. The mayor accused him of criminal libel (Art. 212 of the Criminal Code). In 2011 the Poznań–Stare Miasto District Court found the blogger guilty and sentenced him to restricted liberty, compensation of PLN 500, a ban on practising the profession of a journalist for one year, and an apology.

The Poznań Regional Court set aside the judgment and discontinued the proceeding due to the negligible harm of the alleged act. But the Supreme Court of Poland upheld the complainant’s cassation appeal and remanded the case for reconsideration. On remand, the Poznań Region Court discontinued the case conditionally for one year and ordered Łukasz Kasprowicz to pay PLN 500 to Fund for Victim Aid and Post-Release Assistance.

The blogger’s attorneys, Dominika Bychawska-Siniarska from the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights and Artur Pietryka from Wardyński & Partners, filed a complaint against this judgment with the European Court of Human Rights, alleging violation of Art. 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (freedom of expression). After the Polish government admitted to infringing the applicant’s freedom of expression and agreed to pay Kasprowicz EUR 3,000 in compensation, the ECtHR decided to remove the case from the docket.

Artur Pietryka commented: “Today’s decision by the court is important, as it involves freedom of speech on the internet, particularly in the area of political debate. At the same time it confirms that conditional discontinuance of criminal proceedings against journalists should be regarded as exerting a chilling effect on public debate.”