In Poland, a well-known writer and journalist is being prosecuted for insulting President Andrzej Duda. Jakub Zulczyk wrote in a Facebook post that Duda is “moron”. With this verdict, he is now risking three years in prison.
In November, Zulczyk responded to a tweet by Duda about the US presidential election. He congratulated Joe Biden on his victory, “although we have yet to await the appointment by the electoral college”. The latter is a formality and therefore, according to the author, it was unnecessary to make a reservation.
By calling Duda debilem, Zulczyk went a step too far, finds the prosecutor‘s office in Warsaw. “The term is unacceptable and cannot be regarded as substantive criticism,” states in the indictment.
A spokesperson for the prosecutor tells the conservative news site Polityce that the writer has now been interrogated. In that interrogation, he kept his judgment on the president.
Extensive defamatory laws
Zulczyk writes on Facebook that he is the first writer in Poland to be persecuted for what he writes in a long time. In addition, he argues that Duda himself is guilty of insults from groups of people. For example, at a campaign meeting in 2020, he said: “LGBT people are not people, but an ideology.”
Poland has extended the libell-laws in recent years. For example, insulting Heads of Government and religious leaders has been punishable. According to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Poland is most often prosecuting people for libel and slander among all Member States. In particular, the number of blasphemy cases is increasing.
In December, a man was given a community service because he had signed a penis on a Duda election postster in a drunken state. In protests against the ruling PIS party, protesters were arrested for scanning “hurtful slogans” over politicians.
Newspapers in protest
Independent newspapers and news sites have condemned Zulczyk’s persecution and claim that freedom of expression in Poland is under pressure. Newsweek Polska asks himself in a comment how the prosecutors are going to prove “Duda is not an idiot”.
However, according to lawyers, it is uncertain whether Zulczyk actually disappears under lock and key. Lawyer Dominika Bychawska-Siniarska tells the left-liberal newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza that the writer presumably gets away with a fine or community service. “You do not end up in jail for such an insult,” she hopes.