The children of Polish journalists Wojciech Czuchnowski (pictured) and Tomasz Lis recently received death threats. (Przemek Wierzchowski/Agencja Gazeta)

Polish journalists’ children targeted with death threats, phone harassment

Berlin, February 7, 2022 — Polish authorities should swiftly and thoroughly investigate death threats received by family members of journalists Wojciech Czuchnowski and Tomasz Lis, and ensure the journalists’ and their families’ safety, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday.

On January 20, several police stations in different cities throughout Poland called Czuchnowski’s son Mateusz Czuchnowski, saying they had received bomb threats from his phone number; later that day, he also received a call from an automated voice saying, “we will kill you because you are betraying the motherland,” according to news reports and Wojciech Czuchnowski, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview, saying he believed his son’s phone number had been spoofed.

Separately, on January 31, Lis’ daughter Pola Lis also received a call with an automated voice that threatened to kill her for “betraying the motherland,” according to news reports and Tomasz Lis, who communicated with CPJ via email.

Wojciech Czuchnowski, a reporter at the Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper, and Tomasz Lis, editor-in-chief of the Newsweek Polska weekly, both told CPJ that they believed their children had been targeted in response to their work.

“Polish authorities should take the death threats and harassment of journalists Wojciech Czuchnowski and Tomasz Lis’ children seriously, and hold the perpetrators to account,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Journalists in Poland who critically cover the government should be able to report freely, and authorities must ensure that they can continue their work without fear or intimidation.”

Czuchnowski’s son works as a cinematographer, and Lis’ daughter is a columnist who covers sports, the journalists said. Czuchnowski has recently covered the alleged use of Pegasus surveillance spyware against opposition politicians in Poland, and Lis frequently publishes news coverage critical of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party. In recent weeks, several opposition politicians and civil society activists critical of the government have also been targeted by similar threats and harassment via phone.

“My understanding is that I am targeted,” Tomasz Lis told CPJ.

Both journalists told CPJ that they reported the threats to the police. CPJ emailed the Polish Ministry of the Interior, which oversees the police, but did not immediately receive any reply.