Ziobro’s man censors Judge Igor Tuleya. He banned his columns about the courts on the radio
The ban on recording columns was issued by Przemyslaw Radzik, Minister Ziobro’s man for prosecuting independent judges and his nominee in Poland’s largest court. Radzik did not like it that Tuleya wanted to record columns about courts and the rule of law for the civic Halo.Radio.
This is additional harassment of Judge Igor Tuleya from Warsaw who is being repressed on disciplinary charges and criminally prosecuted by the National Prosecutor’s Office. At the beginning of February 2021, the judge informed his superiors at his home Regional Court in Warsaw of his intention to record columns for the civic Halo.Radio. The judge did so because it is an additional occupation and the court authorities should know about it.
The columns will not interfere with the judge’s work because Tuleya has not adjudicated for 99 days after the illegal Disciplinary Chamber suspended him (it also cut his salary by 25%) and the court authorities removed him from adjudication. The judge was also supposed to record the columns for free.
However, on Wednesday, 24 February, he was prohibited from working with Halo.Radio. The decision was made by the famous Przemysław Radzik, who, as the deputy chief disciplinary commissioner, prosecutes independent judges, and who was recently appointed vice-president of the Regional Court in Warsaw on the nomination of Ziobro’s ministry.
Radzik did not like the radio, which he considered ‘politicized’. ‘Radzik is already not only a disciplinary commissioner and vice-president of the court, but he also wants to be a censor. His assessment of Halo.Radio is outrageous. I will probably continue doing columns, for which they will automatically impose disciplinary sanctions on me,’ Judge Igor Tuleya tells OKO.press.
How the prosecuted judge wanted to talk about the courts and the law
Judge Igor Tuleya is a symbol of the free courts. He is being prosecuted by Ziobro’s men for criticizing the minister’s ‘reforms’, defending the free courts and meeting with citizens. He has received several disciplinary sanctions for this. And the internal affairs department of the National Prosecutor’s Office wants to press criminal charges against him for a ruling that was unfavourable to PiS, for which he let journalists in. To this end, in November 2020, the illegal Disciplinary Chamber lifted his immunity and simultaneously suspended him as a judge.
However, Tuleya does not recognize the Chamber as being legal and has already failed to appear twice for questioning when summoned by the National Prosecutor’s Office. It can now be expected that the prosecutor’s office will apply to the Chamber for its consent for the police to detain him and bring him to them forcibly. Tuleya is aware of this, but the judicial community is fully behind him.
In a letter to the authorities of the Regional Court in Warsaw, Tuleya informed them that he wants to publish columns on education and the broadly-understood rule of law. He was asked to specify exactly what they would be about. The judge specified that the 2–5 minute columns would be posted on the radio’s website. They will be pre-recorded. They will apply, among other things, to the right to a fair trial, the independence of the judiciary, the impartiality of judges, the administration of justice under the Constitution and criminal procedures. His column of 19 February is on the radio’s website; the judge talks in it about the types of pre-war judges.
The vice-president for criminal cases of the Regional Court in Warsaw, Przemyslaw Radzik, who raised an objection, made the decision to prohibit the recording of the columns. He referred to a provision of the Act on Courts that states that an objection to additional employment of a judge is issued if it will interfere with the performance of the judge’s duties, undermine confidence in his impartiality or bring disrepute to the judge’s office.
Radzik attacks Halo.Radio
In his decision, Radzik wrote that, in his opinion, Halo.Radio, which was founded by Fundacja Obywatelska [the Civic Foundation] and relies on donations from its listeners, is extremely ‘politicized’. For Radzik, the proof of this is the description of the nature of the radio from its website.
The radio station writes about itself as follows: ‘HALO.RADIO is a modern media project, based on the foundation of IMPARTIALITY, namely the basis of journalism. We do not advocate any political option, and we want to fulfil the role of a carrier of information and an unbiased commentary. We watch all politicians closely with equal commitment and energy, regardless of the camp or option they represent.’
Radzik did not like the statement that the radio watches all politicians closely, dividing them into options, namely the government and the opposition. He also points out that the radio was created on the initiative of the Civic Foundation and that there are sharp, blunt journalistic programmes on the radio, which avoid ‘political correctness’. But it is not clear from his decision why he considers such a formula of the radio to be extremely politicized.
In his decision, he writes that it is better to cooperate with the National School of Judiciary and Public Prosecution, which is subordinated to Minister Ziobro and is headed by Dariusz Pawłyszcze, privately the partner of Dagmara Pawełczyk-Woicka, a member of the new NCJ and president of the Regional Court in Kraków, nominated by Ziobro’s ministry.
Radzik makes it clear that training for lawyers is also better than columns. Meanwhile, he considers cooperation with private entities questionable. Furthermore, Radzik is concerned that Tuleya’s columns could increase the reach of the Civic Foundation, which founded the radio. And its ‘political’ nature will undermine confidence in the profession of judge. Furthermore, according to Radzik, Tuleya’s cooperation with the radio would also breach the Code of Professional Ethics of Judges and Court Assessors, which states that a judge must avoid behaviour that undermines his impartiality.
At the end of his decision, Radzik falls into absurdity and ridicule. He writes that publishing legal columns on Halo.Radio ‘can dangerously gain the attribute of him [Tuleya – ed.] providing legal advice’. His entire decision is on the Facebook profile of the Iustitia association of judges, which disclosed it.
Iustitia: Radzik has become a censor
Radzik’s letter does not explain the reasons for prohibiting Tuleya from publishing columns in Halo.Radio. The vice-president of the court did not give any serious allegations for his argument about the ‘politicization’ of the radio. So maybe he is referring to the announcement of Tuleya’s already published column, in which the judge is presented as ‘a judge repressed by Kaczyński’s regime’. Radzik may also not like the radio’s columnists, namely Professor Magdalena Środa, attorney Sylwia Gregorczyk-Abram from the Free Courts, who defends repressed judges, or Professor Marcin Matczak, who defends the rule of law in Poland and who works with the radio.
‘Radzik is no longer satisfied with the function of vice-president and disciplinary commissioner; now, he has decided to become a censor and choose the media Igor in which Tuleya can express himself. I don’t know where Mr Radzik gets this fascination with communist methods; he is behaving like a character taken from a different era,’
Judge Bartłomiej Przymusiński, a member of the management board of the ‘Iustitia’ Association of Polish Judges, comments on Tuleya’s prohibition. And adds: ‘We shall not agree to censorship activities. This case should also incite objections among journalists’.
The judge is also defended by the Warsaw branch of Iustitia: ‘How many more instruments and tools will be used to humiliate and degrade Judge Igor Tuleya? This is an oddity. A judge who is suspended, who has been prohibited from taking any action, is forbidden from conducting educational activities, with the argument that this will ‘undermine confidence in his impartiality’. After all, he cannot make a single procedural decision in any case! Therefore, there is no question of undermining confidence in his impartiality, and only the mere content of his columns and the judge’s statements can prove whether they are unworthy of a judge,’ says judge Katarzyna Wróbel-Zumbrzycka, president of the Warsaw branch of Iustitia.
The editor-in-chief of Halo.Radio, Mariusz Rokos, is also amazed by Radzik’s decision and the allegations against the radio station. ‘I wanted to hire a detective to look for the sense and logic in Radzik’s decision. Impartiality and looking closely at all politicians cannot be used as arguments concluding that the radio is politicized. Radzik does not understand what freedom of speech and independent media are,’ Mariusz Rokos tells OKO.press. And adds: ‘Radzik demands that Tuleya stops talking on air about judicial impartiality and the independence of the courts. But Tuleya will continue to talk, no one will shut him up. The radio is standing behind him. We will defend Judge Tuleya’s right of free speech.’
Radzik banned another judge from training trainees
This is yet another example of how the new authorities of the Regional Court in Warsaw, appointed by Minister Ziobro, will toughen the course taken with respect to the capital’s judges. Piotr Schab, who is simultaneously Minister Ziobro’s chief disciplinary commissioner, has been the president here for several months. He replaced Joanna Bitner.
And Przemysław Radzik was recently made his deputy for criminal matters, also being the deputy chief disciplinary commissioner (namely Schab in a different role).
Radzik has already shown that he will prosecute the capital’s judges at work. Judge Piotr Gąciarek, who is very active in defending the free courts and is a member of the Warsaw Iustitia, already has problems. A week ago, Court President Piotr Schab, reported him to the disciplinary commissioner. The president did not like the fact that Gąciarek was defending Tuleya in front of the National Prosecutor’s Office. He also did not like his criticism of the prosecutor’s office and the fact that he organized a picket in defence of the prosecutor’s office and that he went there without his consent. It did not end there. Because Radzik, as the vice-president of the court, following in Schab’s footsteps, prohibited Gąciarz from participating in training for trainee attorneys-at-law.
However, Radzik is not consistent. Because, while he praised the training of lawyers in Tuleya’s prohibition, in the case of Gąciarek he considered that if he trained them this would bring dishonour to the office of a judge. The new authorities of the largest court did not stop there. They included a prohibition to take photographs in court without their consent in the court rules. This strikes at independent judges, because they had previously taken solidarity photographs in court with repressed judges. Now the Warsaw judges hold solidarity pickets outside the court, in a car park on the other side of Al. Solidarności, opposite the regional court.
Harassment of punitively posted prosecutors
But it is not only Ziobro’s people in the courts who are tightening the screw. The same is happening in Prosecutor General Ziobro’s prosecutor’s office. It is mainly the rebellious prosecutors from the Lex Super Omnia association, which is critical of Ziobro and National Prosecutor Bogdan Święczkowski, who experience repression and additional harassment. Overall, Bogdan Święczkowski has sent seven prosecutors on punitive postings several hundred kilometres away from home. But this was not the end of it. Ewa Wrzosek from Warsaw, who now works in Śrem in Wielkopolska, was recently prevented by her supervisor from attending a meeting with law students.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, 24 February 2021, the National Prosecutor’s Office announced that it would sue Katarzyna Kwiatkowska, the head of the Lex Super Omnia association, who had been punitively posted in Golub-Dobrzyń. The prosecution office announced the lawsuit because it was hurt by her criticism of Ziobro’s prosecution service and National Prosecutor Bogdan Święczkowski. Kwiatkowska criticized them in an interview with Gazeta Wyborcza. However, the announcement of the lawsuit may be a response to Kwiatkowska’s lawsuit. Because she filed a lawsuit in court on Tuesday, 23 February against the prosecutor’s office for the punitive posting and is demanding compensation.