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Frontpage News 2010 Protecting freedom of speech

Observatory Freedom of Media in Poland.jpg

Protecting freedom of speech

With support from the EEA and Norway Grants, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights in Poland monitors and protects the freedom of media all over the country.

Launched one and a half year ago, in November 2008, the project Observatory of the freedom of media has already left marks in the public debate in Poland.

The project draws on local correspondents in each of Poland’s 16 administrative regions, which report on violations of media freedom, provide legal assistance in several cases and organise debates on problems of freedom of expression.

Reporting attacks on free speech

The overall objective of the Helsinki Foundation’s work is to extend the scope of media freedom and freedom of speech in all Polish media channels. This includes media at different levels – national, regional and local – and also the different channels the news organisations apply, such as the Internet, newspapers, radio and television.

Through the monitoring and reporting of the 16 local correspondents, the Observatory project keeps track of attacks on free speech or breaches on media freedom at the local level in Poland, where the conditions for independent media are seen to be especially difficult. According to the Helsinki Foundation, one aspect of the difficulties relate to the fact that local governments finance and support their own media, which makes it hard for independent media to compete.

Legal cases against journalists

At the moment the foundation is observing and providing legal aid in 17 legal cases concerning journalists. Two of the cases are pending before the European Court of Human Rights. The foundation is also observing cases that concerns civil actions against bloggers and owners of Internet websites.

As an NGO devoted to human rights research, education and monitoring, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights is a key player in the fight for civil and political rights in Poland. Their efforts are supported under the Polish NGO fund of the EEA and Norway Grants, which has a strong focus on strengthening democracy and civil society.

The Observatory of the freedom of media project is implemented in partnership with the Human Rights House Foundation in Oslo.

Photo credit: Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights in Poland