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(en) Association of Syndicalists of Poland ZSP-IWA: The Court of Appeal dismissed the action of Pawel Spiewak [machine translation]
Wed, 7 Nov 2018 07:27:20 +0200
On 19 September 2018, the Warsaw Court of Appeal dismissed Pawel Spiewak's claim against
Jakub Zaczek in connection with the "Worst Employer of the Year" competition conducted by
the Polish Syndicate Association. He changed the unfavorable verdict of the District
Court, which was made in October 2016. ---- The suit concerned the publication of the
Polish Syndicalists' Union about the results of the Worst Employer 2013 contest , in which
Pawel Spiewak received the second place. Employee reports quoted in the justification of
the competition results indicated, among others, for breaking employee rights and mobbing.
During the trial, former employees of the Jewish Historical Institute testified that Pawel
Spiewak fully deserved the "prize" in the competition .
The plaintiff claimed that the publication infringed his personal rights and demanded the
removal of materials from the network, apologies and remedies. The court in the first
instance acknowledged the plaintiff's claims and ordered the publication of an apology and
the payment of 10,000 compensation. As a result of the appeal written by the lawyer Jonasz
Zak, the lawsuit was dismissed.
In the justification of the verdict, the Court of Appeals wrote:
"it was necessary to state, contrary to the position of the Court of First Instance, that
naming someone" the worst employer of the year "should not be assessed in terms of fact,
it was a typical assessment ... Meanwhile, the truthfulness of value judgments is not
verifiable. it is impossible to implement and violates the freedom of expression protected
by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, for it is undoubtedly the
freedom to express an opinion whose importance in today's society has undeniable value and
which justifies relying on an important public or private interest. In addition, no one
may require other people to affirm himself or to do anything[...].
The very form of the assessment was also not particularly severe or drastic, it did not
contain offensive terms, which in this respect could result in the recognition that there
was a violation of public goods in the form of even the occurrence of intensive excesses.
It was also worth noting that in the present case the plaintiff was a public figure. The
framework of freedom of expression concerning persons involved in public activities is
broader, including the scope of acceptable criticism, and thus the extent of the need for
such persons to tolerate negative statements about themselves, and greater. People
conducting public activity inevitably, and at the same time aware and voluntary, put
themselves under control and reaction from the public.
Since a public person can not demand silence and refrain from expressing marks by those
who are interested, he must agree to subject his activity to open criticism. Taking the
above into consideration, it was necessary to assume that the plaintiff as a public figure
should accept calling him the worst employer of the year as acceptable criticism, which of
course did not mean that he had to agree whether to approve such an assessment.
Although it often turns out to be difficult to set a boundary between an acceptable
formula and one that must be considered unacceptable, it certainly does not follow the
appeal of the appellant. If you follow him, you should only allow statements and positive
evaluations, rejecting everything that contains critical and negative elements. Such a
concept of the limits of freedom of speech is impossible to defend, and opinions and
critical courts fall under the legal right to express a negative assessment.
Even if the District Court's argument was accepted that the publication contained
information about the fact in the form of providing the results of the competition for the
worst employer of the year, such information would be difficult to regard as unreliable.
None of the parties to the proceedings had questioned that the competition had indeed
taken place, was carried out by the Union of Polish Syndicalists, and among the winners
there was a reason. Therefore, the information understood in this way was based on factual
circumstances. On the other hand, the result of the competition itself was an expression
on which, as indicated above, the scope of freedom of expression is much broader than in
the case of statements about facts. "
The verdict is final.
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