Defamation Laws In Poland

In Poland, the constitutional court recognizes that free expression is “one of the most important values of a democratic state” but decided that personal dignity and honor should come first.

There are various provisions governing defamation in Poland. For instance, whoever publicly insults the President of the Republic of Poland shall be subject to imprisonment for up to 3 years. Under Article 226, Paragraph 1, defamation of a public official in the course of and in connection with the performance of official duties may be punishable for restriction of liberty or deprivation of liberty for up to one year. On the other hand, insulting a public official in the course of or in connection with the performance of official duties shall be punishable by up to two years imprisonment or a fine under Article 236 of the Polish Criminal Code. Should the Polish nation, Polish Republic or its political system be publicly insulted or ridiculed in print or through mass media, the punishment is one to ten years imprisonment. (See Article 273 of the Polish Criminal Code)

The Penal Code provides for criminal responsibility for defamation, which is an offense prosecuted upon motion of the injured person, although the prosecutor may join the proceedings if an important social interest so requires. Under Article 212. Paragraph 1, “ Whoever accuses another person, a group of persons, an institution, a legal person or an organisational unit without legal personality, of such conduct or characteristics as may degrade them in public opinion, or expose them to the loss of confidence necessary for a given position, occupation, or type of activity, shall be subject to a fine, limitation of liberty, or imprisonment for up to 1 year.” The penalty is more severe if the offence has been committed through the media (Article 212 paragraph 2).

What can be significant is that in Poland, religious defamation (blasphemy) is also taken seriously. Doda, a Polish pop star has been sentenced to two years imprisonment when she explained in a television interview last 2009 that she finds it easier to believe in dinosaurs than the Bible, and further stating that “it is hard to believe in something written by people who drank too much wine and smoked herbal cigarettes.”