19 January 2005

Alert

Prosecutor requests suspended prison sentence for "offensive" editorial about the pope


Incident details

Jerzy Urban

editor(s)

legal action

This is available in:

English Français
(RSF/IFEX) - The prosecution of satirical newspaper editor Jerzy Urban for an editorial about Pope John Paul II could set "a dangerous precedent for a European Union member state," RSF has warned.

On 14 January 2005, a Warsaw prosecutor requested a 10-month suspended prison sentence and a fine equivalent to 5,000 euros (approx. US$6,500) for Urban, editor-in-chief of the satirical newspaper "Nie", because of an editorial published on 15 August 2002 deemed "offensive" to the pope.

"We know perfectly well that it is still a taboo to criticise Pope John Paul II in Poland, but that must not prevent the authorities from conforming to the laws regulating press freedom in Europe, including Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, concerning free expression," RSF said.

Published on the eve of a papal visit to Poland, the article was entitled, "The Walking Sado-Masochist". It described the pope as the "Vatican's Brezhnev", in reference to the continuation of his reign despite declining health, and as an "impotent old man", offering a "spectacle of horror" to the public.

The Prosecutor's Office said Urban "crossed the legal limits of free speech and journalistic ethical norms by using expressions offending and mocking the pope with the aim of slandering and humiliating [him]." Under Article 136.3 of the Polish Penal Code, Urban could get three years in prison for "publicly insulting a foreign head of state".

A verdict and sentencing are expected on 25 January. If the prosecutor's request is upheld and Urban gets a suspended prison sentence of 10 months or less, RSF believes this will constitute a violation of free expression and a threat to the safeguarding of diversity of opinion in Poland. Urban has provocatively said he hopes to be sent to prison because this would prove "the existence of pro-church censorship" in Poland.



Source

Reporters Without Borders
47, rue Vivienne
75002 Paris
France
rsf (@) rsf.org
Fax:+33 1 45 23 11 51
Poland
 
More from Poland
  • Online attacks on journalists in Poland

    In June 2018, IPI visited Poland as part of its Ontheline project, which aims to identify best newsroom practices for preventing and better responding to online harassment of journalists.

  • Freedom of the Press 2017: Poland

    Government offices canceled subscriptions to opposition-friendly media, while state-owned companies redirected advertising money to progovernment outlets.

  • Freedom of the Press 2016: Poland

    The newly elected parliament passed a law on “national media” in December that shifted most authority over public media, including the hiring and firing of journalists, from the regulatory body to the Treasury Ministry. The heads of all public media immediately resigned in protest.