Lord Richard Balfe (United Kingdom, EC), rapporteur on “Ombudsman institutions in Europe - the need for a set of common standards”, today reacted to the defamation lawsuit filed by Polish Public Television (Telewizja Polska - TVP S.A.) against the Polish Ombudsman, Adam Bodnar. On 11 February, TVP sued Mr Bodnar in his personal capacity following a statement about hate speech made shortly after the assassination of the mayor of Gdansk, Pawel Adamowicz, last January and requested an apology.
“The Polish Ombudsman is an independent institution, enshrined in the Polish Constitution and liable for his or her acts before the Sejm. Mr Bodnar’s statement had been intended to condemn hate speech in general and signal some specific problems concerning public television. TVP’s lawsuit looks like an attempt to silence him in his constitutional role as a defender of human rights and fundamental freedoms, which would be completely inappropriate behaviour for a public body.
The Council of Europe has always promoted the crucial role of Ombudsman institutions for the protection of human rights. In its Resolution 1959 (2013) on “Strengthening the institution of ombudsman in Europe”, the Parliamentary Assembly called on member States to promote an “ombudsman-friendly” climate, in particular by enabling them to carry out their tasks effectively. I trust that the Polish courts will apply Council of Europe standards on human rights and the rule of law when examining this case. Hopefully that will not be necessary: I call on Polish Public Television to withdraw its suit.”