Report by the parliamentary commission regarding the President of the National Broadcasting Corporation. The opinion expressed does not amount to a criminal conviction and neither the presumption of innocence nor his private life were violated

JUDGMENT

Kwiatkowski v. Poland 16.05.2019 (no. 58996/11) 

see here

SUMMARY

Publication of a report by the Polish Parliament on allegations of corruption in the amendment of the Broadcasting Act. The applicant’s complaint that the report hurt his reputation and constituted a criminal conviction without himself having access to an effective remedy.

The Court found that the Polish Parliament had not ruled on the applicant’s criminal liability, but had expressed an opinion on his conduct as a public figure. He was not charged or convicted, and no penalty was imposed on him. According to the European Court of Human Rights, the national courts have examined the merits of his case and rejected it, not denying their jurisdiction to protect his reputation. Domestic authorities, however, could not be held responsible for acts of the media. The alleged interference with the applicant’s right to respect for his private life was not disproportionate to the legitimate aims pursued. No infringement of Articles 6 and 8 of the ECHR. Application inadmissible.

PROVISIONS

Article 6

Article 8

PRINCIPAL FACTS 

The applicant, Robert Kwiatkowski, is a Polish national who was born in 1961 and lives in Warsaw.
He was Chairman of the Board of Directors of the State television corporation from 1998 to 2004.

In December 2002 a national daily newspaper published an article about corruption in connection
with parliamentary work on an amendment to the Broadcasting Act: Lew Rywin, a famous cinema
producer, on the instructions of a “power-holding group”, was said to have proposed his help in
exchange for certain advantages.

In January 2003 the Sejm set up a parliamentary commission of inquiry to investigate the
circumstances. It subsequently rejected the commission’s report, which found that Mr Rywin had
acted alone and, in September 2004, adopted another report, which named a number of prominent
figures as having committed the offence of bribery. This was reported in the media.

The applicant brought proceedings for the protection of his reputation. His claim was dismissed in
November 2009 by Warsaw Regional Court, which found that the alleged damage was not made out,
since the applicant was a public figure and the commission, an instrument for parliamentary scrutiny
of government action, had acted within the confines of the Constitution and the law. It added that
the applicant had never been charged or convicted in connection with the offence in question.

The applicant appealed, arguing that the Sejm, not a court, had declared him guilty of a criminal
offence. The Warsaw Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal in April 2010 on the following grounds:
the commission had been lawfully constituted, in compliance with the legislative provisions; the
adoption of the report had fallen within the remit of Parliament, which had not ruled on criminal
liability but had issued an opinion, which had not been a replacement for any court decision; the
applicant had been able to bring his case before a court, and the report had only concerned his
public activities. In a decision of 17 March 2011 the Supreme Court refused to entertain the
applicant’s appeal.

From 2004 to 2008 an investigation was conducted into the allegations of corruption surrounding
the legislative procedure for the amendment of the Broadcasting Act, but it was then dropped when
it became time-barred.

THE DECISION OF THE COURT….

Article 6 § 1

The Court noted that the work of a parliamentary commission of inquiry was of a political nature and
concerned the functioning of the executive and any anomalies. It pointed out, as in the Rywin case,
that the commission’s inquiry had been opened following press coverage, to look into allegations of
corruption on the part of high-ranking public figures.

The Court found that the Sejm had not ruled on the applicant’s criminal liability but had expressed
an opinion on his conduct as a public figure. He had not been charged or convicted and no sanction
had been imposed on him. The question referred to the commission of inquiry had not been such as
to lead to a decision on any “criminal charge” against the applicant.
The Court found that the complaint under Article 6 § 1 was incompatible with the Convention
provisions.

Article 6 § 2 and Article 8

The Court reiterated that in the absence of any criminal proceedings, protection against defamation
fell within Article 8.

The Court observed that the report had been adopted in accordance with the relevant provisions of
the Constitution and the law on parliamentary commissions of inquiry. In view of the seriousness of
the questions at issue, the fact of bringing the commission’s findings to the public’s knowledge had
pursued aims that were compatible with the Convention (public safety, prevention of disorder or
crime and protection of the rights and freedoms of others). The facts, whose disclosure had
triggered a major political scandal, constituted an important question of general interest on which
the public were entitled to receive information.

The Court noted that the Rywin case had shown that there had been a factual basis for the
commission’s findings. It did not have any reason to conclude that the report’s findings had been
arbitrary or manifestly at odds with the reality.

The Court observed that the domestic courts had not rejected jurisdiction in respect of the
protection of the applicant’s reputation and had examined the case on the merits. It further pointed
out that the domestic authorities could not be held liable for acts of the press.

The Court took the view that the alleged interference with the applicant’s right to respect for his
private life had not been disproportionate to the legitimate aims pursued. The complaint was
rejected as manifestly ill-founded.

Article 13 taken together with Article 8

As the complaints under Article 6 were incompatible with Convention provisions and those under
Article 8 and Article 6 § 2 were manifestly ill-founded, Article 13 was inapplicable.

The Court found that this complaint had to be rejected(echrcaselaw.com editing).


ECHRCaseLaw

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