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Friday, October 22, 2021

State of emergency. Journalists arrested at the border were put in a cell for a day and brought to court in handcuffs

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Three journalists from ARTE television who shot material about the migration crisis on the Polish-Belarusian border were detained by the police when they unknowingly entered the state of emergency and wanted to get out of it. They spent a day in a cell, the next day they were brought to court – two of them were handcuffed. – These are disproportionate measures. They are to prove that journalists are to stay away from the zone, because if not, they will end this way – said their representative Patrick Radzimirski.

There is a migration crisis on the Polish-Belarusian border, it is in force in the border area state of emergency. In the last week of September, after a stormy debate in the Sejm, it was extended for another 60 days. Journalists, among others, are not allowed to enter the area of ​​the state of emergency, which means that the only information about the situation on the spot comes from the Border Guard and state authorities.


Journalists detained at the border

On Tuesday, “Gazeta Wyborcza” described the case of ARTE TV journalists who came to the Polish-Belarusian border at the end of September to record material about the migration crisis. These are two Germans – the reporter Ulrike and the operator Andreas. A Pole – Maja Czarnecka, who works in the Warsaw branch of the AFP agency, cooperated with them.

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Journalists recorded in the vicinity of Sokółka, outside the state of emergency. Maja Czarnecka described the situation in an interview with “Wyborcza”. – I informed the Border Guard about the presence of ARTE so that they would not be surprised that we were shooting something. I also asked for advice which way to go. We were shown a gravel road towards the village of Sukowicze, which was outside the zone. There we also recorded an interview with a resident of this town. Later, we took a different road, which led us to the village of Harkowicze. There, seeing the state of emergency sign, we retreated until we reached some asphalt road. We had no coverage on the phone so we had no idea what the route was. A Border Guard patrol came, we stopped. Then we found out that we were in the zone and we had to leave it – she said.

On the asphalt road they were driving, a police patrol stopped them. – We wanted to ask what to do, because border guards sent us here. But this policeman did not listen and called in more – said Czarnecka.

A day in a cell, to court in handcuffs

Three journalists were identified and detained for 48 hours. They were taken to the police station, the policemen took their equipment, documents and telephones. They spent the day in police cells, and the next day they were taken to court. Ulrike and Andreas entered the room handcuffed.

The police wanted to punish each of the journalists with a fine of two thousand zlotys. The court found them guilty of the offense, but lightened the punishment – they were reprimanded.

Anyone who, during a state of emergency, against the order or prohibition (…) stays or does not leave the specified place, facility or area at the agreed time, shall be punishable by detention or a fine.

The spokesman of the Podlasie police, Tomasz Krupa, in an interview with “GW”, explained that the journalists were in a zone in which they should not be located, they did not have the appropriate passes. He said.

Why were journalists handcuffed? According to the spokesman, it is about security. – We often encounter surprising, unpredictable reactions from detainees, regardless of their status – he said in an interview with “Wyborcza”.

Plenipotentiary: they were treated in an absolutely disproportionate manner

The lawyer Patrick Radzimierski, whose reporters asked for legal assistance, spoke about the case of journalists detained at the border on TVN24. – This is a completely unheard of situation. This is the best proof of what the state of emergency was for, he said.

– They prepared the report in full transparency. They informed the Border Guard that they would be in this area. On that day, a spokesman for the Border Guard had an appointment for an interview – he said.

In his opinion, “they were detained and treated in an absolutely disproportionate manner.” Such measures – he said – “are to prove that journalists are to stay away from the zone, because if not, they will end up like that”. – They asked for my help, and I represent them too. The measures were absolutely disproportionate, we will be complaining about this detention, he said.


Main photo source: Artur Reszko / PAP

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