Journalists Dismissed From Polish Public Radio Return to Work

Journalists Wojciech Dorosz and Marcin Majchrowski were dismissed in December 2016 from Polish Radio for "disciplinary reasons". Both filed a court action against the dismissal.

During a conciliatory hearing held in August, the parties made a settlement, according to which the journalists will return to work at Polish Radio in late September.

This is another case of the reinstatement of journalists dismissed on disciplinary grounds from public media outlets following the 2016 reform of Act on the National Media Council.

Support for journalists taken off air

The case started in October 2016, when two news journalists of the Channel Three radio station were taken off air. A group of employees and other collaborators of the radio station expressed solidarity with the dismissed colleagues by, among other things, organising a social media action branded with the #kogoniesłychać” (“#whoissilenced”) hashtag and sending a letter to the management board of the Polish Radio.

In the letter, 125 persons urged for "respecting the principles of journalistic independence and integrity and the working culture of Polish Radio".

Dismissals

These actions resulted in the termination of several employment contracts. The first radio employee dismissed after the submission of "Letter of 125" was Paweł Sołtys, a journalist and then-chair of a trade union. Shortly afterwards, two other members of the union’s board, Wojciech Dorosz and Marcin Majchrowski, were also sacked.

In each case, Polish Radio justified the termination by alleging that the dismissed journalists had been exerting psychological pressure on the Polish Radio’s management board, used "black PR" and attempted to "destabilise the work of the board and the entire Polish Radio Corporation" by "publicly harassing the Board" with, e.g., "demands of mediation".

The three journalists appealed against the dismissal to an employment court.

Trial and settlement

On August 21, 2017, the District Court for the capital city of Warsaw held a settlement hearing in the case brought by Mr Majchrowski and Mr Dorosz against Polish Radio. The court allowed the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights to join the proceedings as a non-governmental organisation.

Ultimately, after a Board reshuffle in March 2017, the parties concluded a settlement. The Radio agreed to meet most of the journalists’ demands made in the statement of claims. In particular, they were reinstated to work in radio on conditions preceding their dismissals. The Polish Radio Corporation also agreed to pay to Mr Majchrowski and Mr Dorosz a sum that includes their salaries for the period of dismissal and undertook to make two charitable payments of PLN 2,500 to a free speech association.