The hosts of a TVP Info program, Rafał Ziemkiewicz and Magdalena Ogórek, have been ordered by a Polish court to each pay a fine of €2,220 (10,000 złoty) for defaming opposition activist Elżbieta Podleśna during a broadcast of the “W tyle wizji” program in February 2019.
The verdict, issued by the second instance court, is now final.
During the show, the hosts were commenting on Elżbieta Podleśna’s case. Podleśna, who works as a psychologist and psychotherapist, was an opposition activist and co-organizer of protests, including one in front of TVP Info’s headquarters where one of the hosts of the show, Magdalena Ogórek, was allegedly attacked verbally and physically by the protesters.
Ziemkiewicz and Ogórek made remarks implying that Podleśna “brings her patients to various events as a psychologist and psychotherapist” and that they themselves had undergone “expertly performed brainwashing.”
Podleśna reported the suspected defamation to the court in 2019, but the case was initially dismissed. However, in September 2021, the District Court of Warsaw City reconsidered Podleśna’s complaint against the dismissal and ordered the case to be reopened.
In December of the same year, an appeals court issued an unofficial verdict, sentencing both journalists to pay a fine of €2,220. “The court found that the permissible limits of criticism were exceeded, and their words were not based on truth and undermined trust in Podleśna as a psychotherapist,” stated her lawyer Sylwia Gregorczyk-Abram.
Ziemkiewicz and Ogórek appealed the verdict, but on May 24, the second-instance court upheld the decision in its entirety. The verdict is now legally binding, and the journalists are required to pay the fine.
Rafał Ziemkiewicz, also a conservative writer and political commentator, referred to the decision on his social media as “more than a scandal.”
“Consider this in context: A gang of aggressive activists attacks a journalist leaving work. The court acquits the instigator who incited and led the attack. Then she sues Ogórek for describing on TV what happened and in two instances, the courts side with the instigator, awarding her compensation,” Ziemkiewicz posted on Twitter.
“A politician in robes and an emblem of the Republic of Poland stands behind the aggressive troublemaker, encouraging them not to moderate their actions, as they will always be acquitted. This is more than a scandal; it is the destruction of law and public order,” he added.
In an interview with the Wirtualnemedia.pl news portal, Ziemkiewicz added, “I intend to request a prison sentence in place of the fine. I need the money for my daughters’ education, and as I approach old age (which is getting closer), I would like to return to writing novels, so such an experience might be useful.”