Journalist detained at Council of Europe human rights conference in Warsaw

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Eleven protesters were arrested demonstrating outside the Council of Europe conference in Warsaw on Monday May 16, including an Indymedia correspondent. The activists claim the arrests are an attempt to suppress free speech.

The protesters organized their march, beginning from Warsaw Palace of Culture and Science and walking to the Royal Square and the Royal Castle, where the Council of Europe was meeting. The council's meeting was believed to be concerning human rights conditions but attended by officials they accuse of human rights violations.

The demonstrators were unable to get into the Royal Square, so they had to stop their march at Krakowskie Przedmiescie Street. A large police presence was on hand to oversee the demonstrations.

As the demonstrations were ending, police arrested 11 activists, including Grzegorz Prujszczyk, who had been filming the events. Three members of Amnesty International were among those detained. All were released by Wednesday, May 18.

Mr. Prujszczyk has been charged with assaulting a police officer, which could carry a sentence up to 10 years in jail. Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, or RSF) report Mr. Prujszczyk was held for 39 hours, his tapes were reviewed, and though released he is under police surveillance and must report to the police weekly.

Activists and journalists believe the charge against Mr. Prujszczyk, as well as the charges against the other detainees, are attempts to suppress freedom of speech and the press in the country.

"This behaviour by police is a threat to press freedom. Polish journalists and other media workers should be able to cover every type of event, even those seen as sensitive, such as opposition demonstrations against the government's support for the war in Iraq," RSF said.

Indymedia Poland claims, "We have indisputable evidence of Grzegorz Prujszczyk's innocence (photos, film recordings, witness statements), which we can provide to any interested journalists. We are convinced that the detention of this Indymedia reporter is because of his journalist work carried out during the demonstration. This is an obvious violation of freedom of speech and a constraint against independence of the media." [1]