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Minister of Justice Adam Bodnar announces changes to the Penal Code. Article 212 on defamation is to disappear

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During a conference on strategic lawsuits brought by large corporations and politicians against public participation, Minister of Justice Adam Bodnar announced changes to the Penal Code. His ministry is to start working on the abolition of Art. 212 of the Penal Code on defamation.

On April 25 and 26, an international conference on SLAPP was held in Warsaw. It stands for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. As oko.press points out, this type of lawsuits are most often brought by large corporations, politicians, and state authorities, and their aim is to silence people speaking out on issues of public interest. Journalists, activists, bloggers and academics are sued. The event was organized by the Watchdog Polska Civic Network, Agora, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Article 19 and the Prague Civil Society Center.

The conference was attended by Justice Minister Adam Bodnar, who announced during his speech what actions the ministry would take in this matter. One of them is to abolish criminal provisions regarding defamation, i.e. Art. 212 of the Penal Code. His ministry will also deal with Art. 216 of the Penal Code, which deals with insult.

Minister of Justice Adam BodnarPAP/Albert Zawada

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The article on defamation is to disappear from the Penal Code

The Minister of Justice announced that he had sent a request to the Criminal Law Codification Commission to deal with Art. 212 and 216 of the Penal Code. Together with the Civil Law Codification Commission, commission members will work to “abolish those provisions that provide for criminal liability and, on the other hand, strengthen civil law liability”.

Bodnar emphasized that the discussion on the problem of applying Art. 212 of the Penal Code has been pending for years. He has been dealing with it himself since 2004, when he joined the team of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights and dealt with the case of Marian Maciejewski, a journalist sued for allegedly defaming Wrocław judges. – 20 years have passed, and Article 212 of the Penal Code is eternally alive, eternally present in our legal system – he said.

Whoever accuses another person, group of persons, institution, legal person or organizational unit without legal personality of such conduct or characteristics that may humiliate him in public opinion or expose him to the loss of trust necessary for a given position, profession or type of activity, shall be subject to a fine or punishable by restriction of liberty.

Whoever insults another person in his presence or even in his absence, but publicly or with the intention that the insult reaches that person, shall be subject to a fine or the penalty of restriction of liberty.

The Minister of Justice announces changes in the fight against SLAPPs

Oko.press reports that Bodnar said during the conference about the analysis prepared at the Department of Civil Law. It indicates that SLAPPs can be fought with the help of provisions already existing in Polish law, such as Art. 191 of the Code of Civil Procedure (dismissal by the court of a claim “obviously unfounded”) and Art. 4 of the Code of Civil Procedure (combating abuse of procedural law).

However, the minister emphasized that “the problem is too deep to solve it by looking for an appropriate general provision that has been applied so far.” – In my opinion, it will be necessary to define what SLAPP is. It will also be necessary to introduce a very detailed test that the court will have to carry out in order to recognize that something is SLAPP and make this radical decision to dismiss it early. Because early dismissal of a lawsuit means depriving someone of the right to go to court, and for such a thing we need to have arguments, said Bodnar.

He stressed that he was in favor of a “tough regulation” of this matter. The task of implementing the directive will rest with the Civil Law Codification Commission, chaired by prof. Marek Safjan. Bodnar announced that on Friday he submitted a request to Prime Minister Tusk to appoint him to this position.

Main photo source: PAP/Albert Zawada

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