Between 1 and 9 February 2011, Piotr Falkowski and Marek Borawski, two Polish journalists working for the Nasz Dziennik newspaper, were in the Russian Federation gathering information on the air disaster that occurred near Smolensk on 10 April 2010. The President of Poland, his wife and 94 others, including people in high office, were killed in the plane crash. The exceptional nature of this tragedy and the circumstances surrounding it means that it is still the subject of intense public interest in Poland.
Whilst carrying out their duties as journalists, the Nasz Dziennik reporters were arrested by the Russian police, and their equipment (laptops, cameras, memory cards, hard disks, mobile phones — including their own private ones) were seized. They were subjected to exhaustive body searches, their luggage was searched and their passports were confiscated. They were interrogated a number of times but were refused access to an interpreter. They were not even allowed to change their ticket reservations.
The official reason given for the action taken by the police was the fear that the journalists were in possession of information that was illegal to obtain and take outside the Russian Federation. Nevertheless, they were not actually charged with any specific offence.
The action taken against the journalists constitutes a breach of the principle of freedom of speech. The seizure of their equipment could actually result in a breach of a journalist’s right not to reveal their sources, which could represent a real threat to those sources if personal data were recovered.
Media and journalistic freedoms are fundamental values in the EU. This has been underlined by all the branches of the EU many times.
With the above in mind, I should like the Commission to answer the following questions:
What steps does the Commission intend to take in connection with this blatant breach by the Russian authorities of international standards relating to journalists’ freedom to carry out their duties?
What steps will be taken with a view to ensuring that the confiscated equipment is returned undamaged, along with all the data that had been saved on the various seized items?
Will the Commission be asking the Russian authorities to explain this situation?
Will the Commission be taking steps with a view to securing a declaration from the Russians that no further action of this kind will be taken by authorities in the country in the future?