Berlin, October 6, 2021 — Polish authorities should stop harassing journalist Piotr Bakselerowicz, return his equipment, and respect the confidentiality of his sources, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On October 2, four officers from the Warsaw Police Department, two of whom carried guns, searched the apartment of Bakselerowicz, a reporter for the independent newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, in the western city of Zielona Góra, according to a report by his employer, an account of the raid he published in Gazeta Wyborcza, and Bakselerowicz, who communicated with CPJ via email.
Police seized Bakselerowicz’s internet router, his work and personal phones and laptops, and questioned him as a witness in a criminal investigation into threats allegedly received by members of the Polish lower house of the parliament, those sources said. The legislators, who police did not name, allegedly received threats from the IP address assigned to Bakselerowicz’s apartment, according to those reports and Bakselerowicz.
Police left Bakselerowicz’s apartment after about an hour, and did not file any charges against him, those sources said. In his account of the raid, Bakselerowicz denied that he had threatened any legislators. Police have not returned his gear as of today, the journalist told CPJ.
“Polish authorities should stop harassing journalist Piotr Bakselerowicz, immediately return his equipment, and refrain from searching reporters’ homes,” said CPJ Program Director Carlos Martinez de la Serna, in New York. “If police want to question a member of the press, they should summon them for an interview, not send armed agents to raid their homes and confiscate their devices.”
Bakselerowicz wrote that the officers did not have a warrant for the search, and that while police did not specify who allegedly received the threats, he believed they were acting on behalf of Jerzy Materna, a legislator for the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party. Materna told the news website Onet on October 2 that he had recently received an emailed threat, which he reported to police.
Gazeta Wyborcza is the biggest daily newspaper in Poland, and its journalists have faced smear campaigns by pro-government media outlets as well as defamation and privacy lawsuits by politicians and state-linked companies since PiS came to power in 2015, as CPJ documented during fact-finding missions in 2018, 2019, and 2021.
In a tweet on October 2, the Polish national police force wrote that an unspecified number of members of parliament had received threats sent via email, and that a “little-known local journalist” was found at the location matching the IP address from which those messages were sent. The Warsaw Police Department tweeted that day that this case was “no different” than others involving such alleged threats, and also tweeted that they gave “legal assistance” to the police in Zielona Góra, about 300 miles outside of Warsaw.
Bakselerowicz wrote in his account of the raid that he had not sent any threats and added that he would have to have been “a complete idiot” to send such messages from his home, where they could easily be traced.
In a statement on October 3, Gazeta Wyborcza editors called the apartment search a “violation of journalistic freedom” and of journalistic confidentiality. That statement also speculated that someone could have used Bakselerowicz’s router to send threats as a way of framing the journalist, and said that police could have summoned Bakselerowicz for questioning instead of raiding his home.
CPJ emailed the Warsaw police and Materna for comment, but did not receive any replies.