On December 22, 2020, CEE Legal Matters reported that Lesnodorski, Slusarek i Wspolnicy, working pro bono, had successfully represented journalist Polish Justyna Sliwowska-Mroz in her claims that an advertisement by Poland's Law and Justice party had violated her rights. CEEIHM spoke with Sliwowska-Mroz to learn more.
CEEIHM: Let's start with an introduction of yourself and a quick run-down of your career.
Justyna: I am a mother, wife, daughter, sister, and journalist. Since I can remember, I wanted to work in television. In 2008, my dreams become true, when I got a student internship at a local station of Polish television in my hometown Bialystok. At that time, I was studying political science. In the beginning, I was a reporter. After some time I became the host of informational programs. Apart from the news, I also worked in the sports editorial office. In 2015, I moved to Warsaw where I got a job in TVP INFO – TVP’s news channel. I was a host of many programs. Two years later, I was one of the faces of the new morning show‚ Good Morning Poland on TVP1 (the first national channel of TVP).
At the same time, I worked in the editorial office of TVP Polonia – I prepared programs dedicated to Poles living abroad. In August 2019, my son Filip was born. A month later I won my first case in court. A day later, the National Television didn’t extend my contract. Now I fulfill the role of a mother, but I miss the cameras and the thrill that accompanies each program.
CEEIHM: What was the basis of your civil claim against the Law and Justice party?
Justyna: During an election campaign, Law and Justice published a controversial election movie. The main plot was focused on immigrants and the format was close to that of a news program. The authors showed a catastrophic vision: aggressive immigrants, violence, and chaos. That clip was made using several elements: internet clips, actors, and… three seconds from my authentic television program. Just a few words of mine, taken out of context. Simple manipulation. There was an impression that I hosted that fake news program. They used my professional image to support their propaganda. I was convinced that was an illegal action.
CEEIHM: According to Lesnodorski, Slusarek i Wspolnicy, they represented you on the matter at the request of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights. How and when did the HFHR get involved in the matter?
Justyna: I found out about the legal assistance offered to journalists and bloggers by the HFHR. The program is implemented as part of the financial support provided by the Media Legal Defense Initiative. When I contacted HFHR, it turned out that they were also interested in my case and wanted to help me.
CEEIHM: How did the whole process play out from your perspective? Did you have any input on the choice of the firm or were they selected by the HFHR? What were the initial meetings with the lawyers like and how did you prepare for the proceedings and how did you work with the law firm?
Justyna: The HFHR analyzed our case and offered cooperation with Maciej Slusarek. I knew that was the best choice based on his experience, knowledge, and courage. During an initial meeting, he showed me his concept and framed the whole process. After that, we had contact mostly by phone. He was very supportive.
CEEIHM: What is the outcome of the ruling of the Court of Appeal – both for yourself personally and in terms of wider ramifications?
Justyna: The most important outcome for me is the fact that the political party used my image, not only without my permission, but also that they did it illegally. The Court of Appeal didn’t have any doubts about that fact. Moreover, this verdict is an important legal weapon to all journalists – no one is allowed to use someone’s professional image to advance their propaganda targets.