Poland: TVN24 Channel Fined on Incitement Charges

Update: 12 Jan 2018 Resolved
Year 13 Dec 2017 Country Poland Category Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom Source of threat State Partner Article 19 , AEJ , EFJ/IFJ , IPI Alert level Level 2
13 Dec 2017 Poland Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom State Article 19 , AEJ , EFJ/IFJ , IPI Level 2

On 7 December 2017 the National Broadcasting Council of Poland issued a decision fining independent broadcaster TVN 1 479 000 PLN (352 000 EUR) for inciting hatred and threatening public safety in relation to material broadcast on the channel TVN24. They allege that TVN24 news channel’s coverage of protests that took place in front of the Polish Parliament on 16-18 December 2016, violated Article 18(1) and Article 18(3) of the 1992 Broadcasting Act. These clauses state that "Programmes or other broadcasts may not encourage actions contrary to law and Poland’s raison d’Etat or propagate attitudes and beliefs contrary to the moral values and social interest. In particular, they may not include contents inciting to hatred or discriminating on grounds of race, disability, sex, religion or nationality" and "Programmes or other broadcasts may not encourage conduct prejudicial to health, safety or the natural environment". The decision notes that it was issued after "thorough monitoring" of media coverage on six channels: TVN, TVN24, Polsat, Polsat News, TVP and TVP Info. The decision does not state or describe what content violated these clauses. TVN is the most widely watched independent broadcaster, often critical of the current government. A number of media freedom and journalist organisations have raised concerns that the decision amounts to censorship and is a punishment for TVN`s critical coverage. The channel announced that it would appeal the regulator’s decision.

Resolved On 12 January 2018, following the repeal of the decision by the Chairman of the National Broadcasting Council, the partner organisations to the Platform declared this case to be ”resolved”, concluding it was no longer an active threat to media freedom.

Updates

11 Jan 2018 : On 10 January 2018 the Decision against TVN was overturned by the Chairman of the National Broadcasting Council.

Follow-ups

14 Dec 2017 : Poland broadcasting regulator’s fine against private broadcaster TVN SA is unjustified and disproportionate, says OSCE media freedom representative.

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20 March 2018

On 20 March 2018, the European Court of Human Rights issued its Grand chamber judgment on Mehmet Altan’s case. The Court found there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention for Human Rights. With regards to article 5 §1, according to the Court findings, “Mr Altan’s continued pre-trial detention, after the Constitutional Court’s clear and unambiguous judgment of 11 January 2018 (…), could not be regarded as ‘lawful’ ”. The Court held that “for another court to call into question the powers conferred on a constitutional court to give final and binding judgments on individual applications ran counter to the fundamental principles of the rule of law and legal certainty, which (…) were the cornerstones of the guarantees against arbitrariness”. Under Article 10, the Court held in particular that “there was no reason to reach a different conclusion from that of the Constitutional Court, which had found that Mr Altan’s initial and continued pre-trial detention, following his expression of his opinions, constituted a severe measure that could not be regarded as a necessary and proportionate interference in a democratic society”. The Court pointed out in particular that “criticism of governments and publication of information regarded by a country’s leaders as endangering national interests should not attract criminal charges for particularly serious offences such as belonging to or assisting a terrorist organisation, attempting to overthrow the government or the constitutional order or disseminating terrorist propaganda”.

20 March 2018

On 20 March 2018, the European Court of Human Rights issued its Grand chamber judgment on Şahin Alpay’s case. The Court found there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention for Human Rights. With regards to article 5 §1, according to the Court findings, “Mr Alpay’s continued pre-trial detention, after the Constitutional Court’s clear and unambiguous judgment of 11 January 2018 (…), could not be regarded as ‘lawful’ ”. The Court held that “for another court to call into question the powers conferred on a constitutional court to give final and binding judgments on individual applications ran counter to the fundamental principles of the rule of law and legal certainty, which (…) were the cornerstones of the guarantees against arbitrariness”. Under Article 46 (binding force and execution of judgments) of the Convention, the Court held that it was incumbent on the respondent State to ensure the termination of Mr Alpay’s pre-tria detention at the earliest possible date. Under Article 10, the Court held in particular that “there was no reason to reach a different conclusion from that of the Constitutional Court, which had found that Mr Alpay’s initial and continued pre-trial detention, following his expression of his opinions, constituted a severe measure that could not be regarded as a necessary and proportionate interference in a democratic society”. The Court pointed out in particular that “criticism of governments and publication of information regarded by a country’s leaders as endangering national interests should not attract criminal charges for particularly serious offences such as belonging to or assisting a terrorist organisation, attempting to overthrow the government or the constitutional order or disseminating terrorist propaganda”.
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