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On Friday, November 5, "Wyborcza’s" attorney received a penalty notice from the District Prosecutor's Office in Gdańsk. The document specified that a decision has been made to "impose a PLN 500 fine on witness Katarzyna Włodkowska for groundless evasion of testimony".

The order was issued on October 29, 2021, i.e. on the same day Ms Włodkowska was questioned by the Gdańsk prosecution.

The reporter refuses to reveal her source

The District Prosecutor's Office in Gdańsk for almost two years has been going after "Wyborcza’s" reporter Katarzyna Włodkowska because of her feature article published on January 13, 2020. The text made it to print exactly on the anniversary of the assassination of Paweł Adamowicz, the Mayor of Gdańsk.

Włodkowska’s piece "I will sit two years and go out" referred to the statement of an informant who, from the perspective of a witness, described a meeting between Stefan W. (the murderer) and a group of "thugs" in a car.

Once the killer got out of the car after ten minutes, he supposedly told his friends that "he already knows what he is going to do". Did someone order Stefan W. to assassinate the mayor? The article contains no such information. Instead, the reporter's findings indicated that the murder was planned and the killer knew perfectly well what he was doing while preparing for the attack.

The prosecution asked Ms Włodkowska to reveal the identity of her informant but she refused.

A court battle ensued, and on October 15, 2021, the Court of Appeal in Gdańsk had lifted Ms Włodkowska’s reporter’s privilege, justifying its decision by saying that the "good of the justice system requires it".

A dispute about principles

Despite the fact that the court has ordered the reporter to disclose the identity of her informant, during the hearing on October 29, Włodkowska refused to do so.

That is why the District Prosecutor's Office in Gdańsk decided to fine her.

In its decision, the prosecution cited the October 15 ruling of the Gdańsk Court of Appeals which lifted Ms Włodkowska's reporter’s privilege. It also quotes the journalist’s line of argumentation, omitting inconvenient facts. Specifically, it refers to the fact that the informant quoted by Włodkowska explicitly admits in the text to not knowing who exactly was in the car.

- We are going to file a complaint with the court - says Tomasz Ejtminowicz, "Wyborcza's" attorney. - For us, this is a dispute about principles.

The prosecutor's office wanted the reporter to reveal the name of the informant, although the person specifically asked to remain anonymous, fearing revenge and mistrusting the authorities. Ms Włodkowska took the informant’s side, thus protecting a fundamental principle of the reporter's privilege: source confidentiality.

- The decision not to disclose the source’s identity is irrevocable. It is my duty to protect the informant.

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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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