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Pole wins Reporters Without Borders award

November 7, 2017

Reporters Without Borders has awarded Tomasz Piatek from Poland as Journalist of the Year 2017. The reporter accused Polish Minister of Defense Antoni Macierewicz of being involved in illegal arms trade with Russia.

Tomasz Piatek polnischer Journalist
Image: Imago/Zumapress/B. Zawrzel

The book "Macierewicz and his Secrets" details the minister's alleged ties to a communist-era secret security agent and to a US lobbyist, whom Piatek alleges has indirect ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and also to a Russian mafia boss.

Since June 2016, Piatek has had twelve articles about Macierewicz and his connections to Russia published in the daily Gazeta Wyborcza.

After the book's publication Piatek was threatened with an indictment before a military court - a unique process in post-communist Poland - but no charges have so far been brought against him.

Reporters Without Borders and other organizations called in an open letter to Macierewicz in mid-July to drop allegations against Piatek.

"Meticulous research such as that of Piatek are indispensable to expose the lies and deceptions of politicians," Reporters Without Borders CEO Christian Mihr said in Berlin. "Dedicated reporters like him ensure the democratic control of governments. We must support them so that they cannot leave the field to the nationalists of the PiS and other enemies of an open society," Mihr said.

The conservative Law and Justice (PiS) government in Poland took control of public broadcasting after taking office at the end of 2015, dismissing 230 journalists, forcing them to resign or reducing them to less influential posts.

Polish Minister of Defense Antoni Macierewicz
Polish Minister of Defense Antoni Macierewicz Image: DW/R. Romaniec

Mercurial Macierewicz 

Macierewicz frequently draws criticism for his statements or actions, such as the surprise last-minute cancellation of a major deal to purchase helicopters from a France-based maker.

He is also well known for strong anti-Russian statements.

The request to Prime Minister Beata Szydlo to have Macierewicz suspended must first be approved by the parliament's defense commission, which is dominated by the ruling party.

Other awards

Reporters Without Borders awarded the independent Turkish news website Medyascope with news site of the year.

Medyascope gives a voice to persecuted journalists and bloggers through live videos and podcasts and allows for public debate on topics that are officially suppressed in Turkey.

The citizen journalist of the year award was given to the photographer and blogger Soheil Arabi from Iran, who has been in prison since 2013 because of government-critical and Islam-critical entries on Facebook.

Every year, the organization honors journalists, media and citizen journalists who have made outstanding contributions to promoting or defending the freedom of the press.

jbh/rc (AP)

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