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The investigation is personally led by Marcin Policiewicz, deputy district prosecutor in Plock. On March 24, he issued an order in which he demanded that Agora SA (the publisher of "Wyborcza") disclose information identifying five wyborcza.pl users.
The identification data (names, IP numbers, addresses) are needed in connection with "an investigation concerning the humiliation of the constitutional body of the Republic of Poland - the Minister of Justice, through the posting of vulgar and degrading comments about him under the article published in the online edition of "Gazeta Wyborcza" titled "Independent prosecutors are sent hundreds of kilometers away from home for criticizing Ziobro".
The users are accused of violating Article 226(3) of the Criminal Code. The provision states that "whoever publicly insults or humiliates a constitutional organ of the Republic of Poland shall be subject to a fine, the penalty of restriction of liberty or imprisonment for up to 2 years."
The prosecutor needs our readers' data "in order to identify the person(s) who may have committed this act.
Second case in the span of several days
In an interview with Wyborcza, prosecutor Policiewicz confirmed that the investigation has already been launched, which means that he has decided that there are grounds for it. We have traced the entries in the case.
All were made on the evening of January 18, 2021, the day the article was published. One of the opinions cited reads "one day someone more important than Ziobro will come and say that about him "this gentleman will never hurt anyone again". It was a reference to a quote by Ziobro who used these words to describe a doctor whose arrest on corruption charges he personally ordered back in 2007 during his first stint as the Minister of Justice.
Another entry that allegedly "humiliates" the Minister of Justice states, "Children, this is what a psychopath looks like." The prosecution also wants to charge the author of the comment: "Travel is educational, Mr. Ziobro...Go somewhere. Educate yourself (maybe in law?). And don't come back...".
Only two posts contain typical insults. One user refers to Ziobro's actions as "typical for a scumbag," while another uses misspelled vulgarisms against the Minister.
Interestingly, some of the comments enumerated by the Płock Prosecutor's Office are the same ones that are being investigated by the Giżycko Prosecutor's Office that was launched last week. It concerns the "slandering" of Ziobro and the national prosecutor Bogdan Święczkowski. The prosecution wants the data of 12 users to be disclosed, although three entries have long since been removed by a moderator. In the Giżycko case, apart from examples of verbal aggression and vulgarisms, some of the comments contain simple opinions that can hardly be qualified as beyond the boundaries of democratic discourse. Nonetheless, the prosecutors issued an order demanding the provision of data identification of users by Agora.
Both orders will be challenged in court by Agora's lawyer. There the prosecutor will have to justify the need to prosecute the authors of particular opinions, and the court will assess whether there are grounds for doing so.
Every day, 400 journalists at Gazeta Wyborcza write verified, fact-checked stories about Polish politics and society, keeping a critical eye on the ruling camp’s persistent assault on democratic values and the rule of law; the growing cultural tension between religious fundamentalism and human rights; and the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic. Our journalists are on the front lines in 25 Polish cities, reporting from the streets, hospitals, and courtrooms about issues that move public opinion.
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