Mirosław Jamro, a journalist from Bielsko-Biała in southern Poland, is under criminal investigation after publishing information obtained from the local police. According to the prosecutor, by doing his job the journalist allegedly "incited police officers to commit a criminal act".
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Mirosław Jamro, a journalist from Bielsko-Biała in southern Poland, has for many years covered local stories, reporting on accidents, fires, police interventions, etc. Recently, he wrote for the bielsko.biala.pl website, the "Kronika Beskidzka" (The Beskid Chronicle) weekly, and the beskidzka24 news portal.                

"On June 9, the District Prosecutor's Office in Sosnowiec charged Mr. Jamro with art. 18, sec. 2 of the Criminal Code in connection with art. 231, sec. 2 and art. 266, sec. 2. Article 18 deals with the crime of incitement, defining it as ‘wanting another person to commit a criminal act and inducing that person to do so’– reports the "Kronika Beskidzka" weekly. The journalist was questioned as a suspect.

The journalist is facing multiple charges

The prosecutorial investigation addresses two issues. The first case concerns local police officers who allegedly overstepped their authority by refusing to follow an unlawful order by their superior and did not impose a traffic ticket. Four policemen and the commander of one of the local police stations heard charges. The second case concerns "disclosure to an unauthorized person of information constituting a legally protected secret, which the officers obtained in connection with the performance of their official duties".

- "Mirosław J. was presented with two charges in this case. They concern incitement of police officers of the Bielsko-Biała Municipal Police Station to commit crimes of exceeding their powers, i.e. disclosing to an unauthorized person, i.e. Mirosław J., the information constituting a legally protected secret, which the police officers obtained in connection with the performance of their official duties, and which was then published in the press" – says Waldemar Łubniewski, spokesman for the District Prosecutor's Office in Sosnowiec.

Mirosław Jamro himself is not allowed to comment on either the charges or the investigation. Last September, Mr. Jamro left his job at the Beskidzka Press Publishing House. There were several reasons for that, but the main one concerned the problem of getting hold of reasonably truthful information. Police officers increasingly referred him to a spokesman, who was not always available.

"It sends a very dangerous signal to all independent media"

What do other journalists think of these allegations? "Kronika Beskidzka" asked representatives of some of the largest media outlets in Poland for their opinion.

- In my entire career as a journalist, I have never heard of another case like this one. I’ve never heard of a journalist being charged for inciting a crime in such a context, that is, soliciting information from the authorities. (...) The prosecutor’s decision poses a particular danger to investigative journalists, who investigate the pathologies of public life, and to interventionist journalists, who obtain information on a regular basis, establishing the course of action taken up by the authorities, the police, at the scene of various events, including accidents, as is the case here.  I think that such activity on the side of the prosecutor's office is aimed at intimidating editors and sends a very dangerous signal to all independent media. If such a practice were to be perpetuated, in fact, most journalists would not be able to obtain any information, because they would risk criminal charges- stated Ewa Ivanova, a journalist writing for Gazeta Wyborcza.

The Polish Society of Journalists also commented on the issue. - A journalist cannot be criminally prosecuted for fulfilling his professional duties and honestly doing his job. Gathering information - from official and unofficial sources - is part of the essence of the work of any interventionist reporter, investigative or political journalist. Asking questions, and inquiring into the course of events, including traffic accidents, is the essence of the media's work – we read in the organization’s statement.

The Local Newspaper Association, on the other hand, sees the case as an attack on local media.

***

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