REGIONS:

Two newspaper editors to be held in police custody for 48 hours prior to libel trial

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has condemned legislation that enabled a Warsaw court on 30 October 2007 to order that the editor of the national weekly "Gazeta Polska", Tomasz Sakiewicz, and his deputy, Katarzyna Hejke, should be held in police custody for two days prior to the start of a libel trial on 14 December in order, the court said, to ensure they attend.

"We condemn article 212.2 of the Polish criminal code because it has a disciplinary character and likens journalists to criminals liable to become fugitives from justice," the press freedom organisation said. "This is unworthy of a European Union country and we call on the next government to repeal this article."

The privately-owned television station TVN is suing Sakiewicz and Hejke for libel over an October 2006 story claiming that one of TVN's directors, Milan Subotic, cooperated with the communist-era Military Information Services (WSI). Subotic was dismissed soon afterwards. "Gazeta Polska", which supports the outgoing government, was accused by the opposition of trying to smear TVN by giving the impression it was run by former communists.

Article 212.2 provides for sentences of up to two years in prison for defamation. Poland was ranked 56th out of 169 countries in the 2007 Reporters Without Borders world press freedom index. Its low position was due largely to its refusal to amend its legislation governing press offences.

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