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The final judgment in SLAPP case

On March 28, 2024, the District Court in Lublin dismissed the lawsuit brought by the Municipality of Zakrzówek against Bart Staszewski for violating the personal rights of the municipality through the publication of a photo with a sign “LGBT-Free Zone” at the entrance to the town of Zakrzówek. This was the third and final decision in the high-profile cases that local governments brought against Staszewski.

In 2019, several municipalities, counties, and regions declared themselves as “LGBT-Free Zones.” Local government officials voted for anti-LGBT resolutions, declaring a fight against the “LGBT ideology” and protection of “traditions and Christianity.” One such municipality was Zakrzówek, whose council’s resolution was annulled by the Voivodeship Administrative Court in Lublin in January 2024.

To draw attention to the anti-LGBT resolutions and the situation of LGBT individuals in these regions, Bart Staszewski created a road sign, which he placed at the entrance to towns that had adopted such resolutions, photographing it. Following the publication of the photos and the exposure of the LGBT-Free Zones, Staszewski was sued by three municipalities for violating their personal rights, including by the Municipality of Zakrzówek.

The Municipality of Zakrzówek felt offended by Staszewski’s criticism and believed that their good name and image had been damaged by the publication of the photo as part of this campaign. The municipality was supported in this matter by the Redoubt of Good Name Foundation, one of whose founders was Maciej Świrski – now the Chairman of the National Broadcasting Council.

The court fully agreed with our position in the case, stating that there was no violation of the municipality’s personal rights in the form of a good name, as the municipality itself risked losing its good name by adopting a resolution that was contrary to law against the so-called “LGBT ideology.” The defendant’s behavior did not lead to this violation but merely represented a reaction and expression of the defendant’s lack of acceptance and opposition to the municipality’s action, to which the defendant was fully entitled. Moreover, the defendant’s action was not in any way unlawful, as it constituted permissible criticism of the municipality, undertaken as part of the defendant’s broad activist activities in defense of LGBT individuals who were harmed as a result of the resolution adopted by the municipality. The municipality violated the law by adopting the “anti-LGBT” resolution, which was confirmed by all the administrative courts ruling in these cases, and the defendant could not have violated the municipality’s personal rights through his artistic activity in defense of the justified interests of LGBT individuals.
On March 28, 2024, the District Court in Lublin dismissed the lawsuit brought by the Municipality of Zakrzówek against Bart Staszewski for violating the personal rights of the municipality through the publication of a photo with a sign “LGBT-Free Zone” at the entrance to the town of Zakrzówek. This was the third and final decision in the high-profile cases that local governments brought against Staszewski.

In 2019, several municipalities, counties, and regions declared themselves as “LGBT-Free Zones.” Local government officials voted for anti-LGBT resolutions, declaring a fight against the “LGBT ideology” and protection of “traditions and Christianity.” One such municipality was Zakrzówek, whose council’s resolution was annulled by the Voivodeship Administrative Court in Lublin in January 2024.

To draw attention to the anti-LGBT resolutions and the situation of LGBT individuals in these regions, Bart Staszewski created a road sign, which he placed at the entrance to towns that had adopted such resolutions, photographing it. Following the publication of the photos and the exposure of the LGBT-Free Zones, Staszewski was sued by three municipalities for violating their personal rights, including by the Municipality of Zakrzówek.

The Municipality of Zakrzówek felt offended by Staszewski’s criticism and believed that their good name and image had been damaged by the publication of the photo as part of this campaign. The municipality was supported in this matter by the Redoubt of Good Name Foundation, one of whose founders was Maciej Świrski – now the Chairman of the National Broadcasting Council.

The court fully agreed with our position in the case, stating that:

There was no violation of the municipality’s personal rights in the form of a good name, as the municipality itself risked losing its good name by adopting a resolution that was contrary to law against the so-called “LGBT ideology.” The defendant’s behavior did not lead to this violation but merely represented a reaction and expression of the defendant’s lack of acceptance and opposition to the municipality’s action, to which the defendant was fully entitled. Moreover, the defendant’s action was not in any way unlawful, as it constituted permissible criticism of the municipality, undertaken as part of the defendant’s broad activist activities in defense of LGBT individuals who were harmed as a result of the resolution adopted by the municipality. The municipality violated the law by adopting the “anti-LGBT” resolution, which was confirmed by all the administrative courts ruling in these cases, and the defendant could not have violated the municipality’s personal rights through his artistic activity in defense of the justified interests of LGBT individuals.

Part of the final judgment
Orzeczenie w ostatniej sprawie prezesa fundacji Basta
Sara Lipert and Bart Staszewski in front of the court room in Lublin

From the beginning, we had a deep conviction that the lawsuit sponsored by the funds of the Redoubt of Good Name Foundation, formerly managed by Mr. Maciej Świrski, aimed to silence legitimate social criticism of the compromising, antagonizing, harmful, and politically motivated resolutions of municipal councils on zones free from the supposed “LGBT ideology.”

Attorney Bartosz Przeciechowski

We have now obtained the third and final first-instance court ruling dismissing the lawsuit for the protection of the personal rights of municipalities, which, in our opinion, aligns, albeit indirectly, with the goal of new European Union regulations concerning SLAPP suits (strategic lawsuits against public participation) that threaten rule of law and freedom of speech. We hope that, after the implementation of the new regulations, such unfounded lawsuits will be dismissed at earlier stages in the future, and the plaintiffs will face severe consequences, including financial, for their actions directed against activists and their activities undertaken in defense of a justified social interest.

Attorney Sara Lipert

I would like to thank all those involved in the defense processes: Bartosz Przeciechowski, Sara Lipert, Marcin Pawelec-Jakowiecki. Thank you to the irreplaceable Adam Bodnar for all his support and actions as the Ombudsman. Huge thanks to all the non-governmental organizations from Poland and abroad, to diplomats and independent journalists who highlighted the abuses in my cases when PAP and TVP tried to vilify me. Thank you to my partner, Sławek, who has been a constant support and partner in activism for over 10 years. The previous government and its propagandists – you tried to intimidate me, you tried to destroy me. You took eight years of my life, and made the last two years a living hell, but you did not take my dignity. This experience has changed me. We have a moral duty to do everything to ensure this history does not repeat itself and that LGBT+ individuals can feel safe and be treated equally in Poland. What next? Time will tell: but I promise you one thing: I will not stop scrutinizing those in power – any power.

Bart Staszewski
Categories
Court cases

Provincial Administrative Court in Warsaw important decision

The Provincial Administrative Court in Warsaw determined that the Chairman of the National Broadcasting Council (KRRiT) had been inactive regarding three complaints from our Foundation. We alerted that broadcasts on TVP and Radio Maryja were spreading hate speech against LGBT+ individuals, but KRRiT decided not to initiate proceedings on this matter.

In December 2022, we submitted complaints to the Provincial Administrative Court in Warsaw against the Chairman of the National Broadcasting Council concerning broadcasts that were alleged to propagate hate speech against the LGBT+ community. The broadcasts in question included: “#Jedziemy” on TVP Info channel from May 4, 2022, featuring guest commentator Jarosław Jakimowicz tearing a rainbow flag, “Aktualności dnia” on Radio Maryja from May 31, 2022, with Prof. Paweł Bortkiewicz describing the LGBT+ community as pathology, lies, and evil, and a broadcast from August 10, 2022, also on Radio Maryja, in which Deputy Minister of Justice Marcin Romanowski described regulations regarding child adoption by same-sex couples as institutionalized deviance.

In our applications to the Chairman of the National Broadcasting Council, we demanded the initiation of administrative proceedings against TVP and Radio Maryja for violating Article 18(1) of the Broadcasting Act. This article prohibits, among other things, the broadcast of programs promoting actions contrary to law and attitudes and views contrary to morality and social good, especially those containing content that incites hatred and violence or discriminates based on sexual orientation. It is the only provision in the Polish legal system protecting LGBT+ individuals from targeted hate speech.

The court agreed with the Basta Foundation

The Chairman of KRRiT did not consider our foundation’s applications, stating that it could not be a party in the proceedings concerning the violation of Article 18(1) of the Broadcasting Act. He merely responded in writing that he did not find any legal violations in any of the broadcasts. The court agreed with our foundation. Consequently, the organization complained to the Provincial Administrative Court, which confirmed that KRRiT’s practice was incorrect and that social organizations have the right to demand action against homophobia and transphobia. The court ruled that according to Article 31 of the Code of Administrative Procedure, social organizations may demand the initiation of administrative proceedings in cases of broadcasts containing homophobic content. The WSA obligated KRRiT to consider the Foundation’s applications within a month.

It is expected that KRRiT will issue decisions to refuse to initiate proceedings against TVP and Radio Maryja for publishing hateful content. In such a case, the Foundation will again take legal action. If KRRiT neglects this obligation, the Basta Foundation will once again go to court, demanding that the Chairman of KRRiT be fined – according to a statement from the Basta Foundation. The Basta Foundation continues its activities related to homophobia, transphobia, and other manifestations of hate speech in the media. Since March 2022, we have already submitted 15 applications to KRRiT and seven complaints about inactivity. In September, the 6-year term of the previous composition of the National Broadcasting Council ended with Witold Kołodziejski as chairman. The new composition of the National Council is headed by Maciej Świrski.

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