Journalist sentenced to three months in prison

New York, February 12, 2004—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is deeply concerned about Andrzej Marek, editor-in-chief of the weekly Wiesci Polickie (Police News) in the western Polish town of Police, who may be sent to jail for three months for refusing to apologize to a local official who has accused the journalist of defamation. According to local news reports, he has until tomorrow to appeal the court decision.

The charges stem from two articles that appeared in Wiesci Polickie in February 2001. The first article accused Piotr Misilo, then the appointed speaker of the Promotion and Information Unit of the Police City Council, of obtaining his post through blackmail. The second article criticized Misilo for using his public post to promote his private advertising business.

On February 6, 2004, the Szcecin District Court upheld its November 8, 2003, verdict sentencing Marek to three months behind bars. However, the court ruled that it would suspend the sentence if Marek published an apology to Misilo in his newspaper. Marek, who stands by his articles, has refused to apologize.

Human rights organizations in Poland have taken up the case, including the Helsinki Foundation of Human Rights, which has asked Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski to pardon Marek.