Sensation or journalistic sting – judgment in the case of journalist Endy Gęsina-Torres

Endy Gęsina-Torres, a journalist working for Polish national television broadcaster TVP, has been ordered to pay a fine of PLN 2,000 by the Regional Court in Białystok. Last year, Mr Gęsina-Torres orchestrated a journalistic sting to reveal the allegedly abhorrent conditions at the Guarded Centre for Foreigners in Białystok and spent three weeks as an inmate of the facility.

“In rendering this judgment, the court needed to balance, on the one hand, the authority of the justice system which was undermined by the journalist, and, on the other, the public interest in the disclosure of information on the conditions at facilities for foreigners. Unfortunately, the court did not share the arguments supporting the submission that information gathered by Gęsina-Torres was important for civil society”, says Dominika Bychawska-Siniarska.

Endy Gęsina-Torres was charged with several offences, including forgery of documents (which he had signed under an alias) and making false testimonies to the court which referred him to the centre.

In November 2013 the District Court in Białystok found Mr Gęsina-Torres guilty on all counts listed in the indictment. The court refrained from imposing a sentence, ordering the defendant to pay PLN 2,000 to the Fund for Victim and Post-Penitentiary Support.

In the course of the first instance proceedings the Helsinki Foundation presented a position statement outlining criteria for the legality of a journalistic sting. “Our statement emphasised that the sting served a public interest because it was intended to reveal serious irregularities on the part of the facility’s administration. It would have been difficult to attain this goal in any other way than by physically entering the facility”, explains Ms Bychawska-Siniarska.

The Regional Court held that the account of Gęsina-Torres was no different from earlier press publications about the abuses in centres for foreigners.  According to the court’s assessment, the journalist’s article did not bring anything new to public debate and did not change the situation in the centres.

“The second instance decision is final and may not be appealed against in cassation proceedings. In consequence, the only legal remedy against the judgment is an application to the European Court of Human Rights”, notes Adam Ploszka, HFHR’s lawyer.

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