Press law, case IV 346/08

April 27th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

The information about the preparatory proceedings and a criminal trial of the two members of the Wielkopolski Bank Rolniczy board, had been revealed by the Polish prosecutor general Konrad Napieralski. He had mentioned each of the person by a full name. His statement was transmitted on TV, news were published in the Internet. Bianka Mikołajewska wrote an article about this case in the Polish newspaper “Polityka” published by Spółdzielnia Pracy Polityka.

Both members of the board filed a civil suit for the infringement of their personal interests against Mrs Mikołajewska and the publisher. They recalled the provisions of Article 13 of the Polish Act of 26 January 1984 on Press law – APL – (in Polish: ustawa Prawo prasowe), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 5, item 24, with subsequent amendmets, which under no circumstances permits publication of any personal data concerning people during a court trial, unless a prosecutor or a court of law permit the publication. The journalist did not asked for a permission.

The first instance court dissmissed the case and the higher court accepted its decision. The Court ruled that Article 13(2) of the APL does not apply to public figures. Both courts agreed that if personal data has been disclosed in a public statement, a journalist has the right to consider its free access. The plaintiffs filed a cassation complaint to the Supreme Court. They argued that the provisions of Article 13(2) the APL apply to them as the public figures. They claimed that even when personal data are freely accessible that doesn’t mean they are to be published in a newspaper.

The Supreme Court in its judgment of 28 January 2009 case file IV 346/08 dissmissed the complaint. The Court ruled both lower courts were wrong. The Court decided that the Article 13(2) of the APL applies to the public figures too. However, the Supreme Court agreed that the journalist is free from charges. It was not in journalist duties to check if a prosecutor acted in good faith during his official statements.