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Polish Journalist Jailed

Source of news: WARSAW, Jan 16 (Reuters)
2006-01-19 11:19:00 / News read 2934 reading
A Polish journalist started a three-month jail term on Monday, becoming the only person in the European Union serving a criminal sentence for libel, an international human rights group said.

Reporters without Borders (RSF) has long championed the case of Andrzej Marek, who was convicted in 2002 of libelling local government officials in two 2001 articles about alleged corruption and sentenced to three months in prison.

In March 2004, when he was scheduled to begin serving his sentence following a rejected appeal, his jail term was postponed after a group of Polish journalists locked themselves in a cage in front of parliament in protest.

Several journalists have since toned down their support, saying Marek had not provided proof for his allegations.

RSF and the Committee to Protect Journalists say the issue is that Polish law allows libel to be treated as a criminal offence rather than a civil matter, and that hurts freedom of speech in the EU newcomer.

RSF said Poland was the only EU country to impose jail sentences on journalists for "offences of opinion".

Marek's lawyer, Bartlomiej Sochanski, admitted the journalist was difficult to like, but said that should not allow the state to put him in jail.

"Andrzej Marek doesn't have the greatest manners," he told Reuters by telephone. "He's not a guy everybody likes. He's controversial -- he speaks unequivocally, categorically."

"But that shouldn't affect our assessment that throwing journalists into jail for what they write isn't the wisest move for the state," Sochanski added.

(POLAND-JOURNALIST; Reporting by Nathaniel Espino; Editing by Sonia Oxley; nathaniel.espino@reuters.com, Reuters messaging: nathaniel.espino.reuters.com@reuters.net)

Monday, 16 January 2006
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