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Poland: Film director hopes for human rights backing after Communist-era police spy taunt

A Polish film-director, fined after accusing a professor of being a Communist-era police spy, will discover next week if judges agree that his human rights were breached.

The European Court of Human Rights will publish its decision in the complaint Braun v. Poland (no. 30162/10) on Tuesday 4 November.

The applicant, Grzegorz Michal Braun, is a Polish national who was born in 1967 and lives in Wrocław (Poland). He is a film director, historian and author of press articles on current issues.

The case concerns his complaint about being ordered to pay a fine and to publish an apology for damaging the reputation of a well-known professor.

In a radio debate about lustration in April 2007, Braun referred to the professor as an informant for the secret political police during the communist era.

In allowing a civil action brought by the professor for the protection of his personal rights, a regional court, in a judgment in July 2008, noted that the professor had been examined by a special commission set up by his university to examine the problem of covert surveillance of academics but that the commission had been unable to reach any unequivocal conclusions.

Braun’s appeal was eventually dismissed by the Supreme Court but the obligation to publish an apology, initially ordered for several media, was limited to one national daily newspaper and oneradio station.

The Supreme Court noted in particular that while a journalist reporting on an issue of public interest could not be obliged – under its case-law – to prove the veracity of each statement, Braun could not be considered a journalist and his statement had been of a private nature.

Relying on Article 10 (freedom of expression), Mr Braun complains that the Polish courts’ decisions violated his right to freedom of expression, arguing in particular that he had been active as a journalist for many years and that radio debate in which he participated concerned an important matter relating to a public figure.

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