Saturday, July 08, 2006

Throwing Potatoes - International Mess

Now this Potato fiasco is growing, with Reporters Without Borders, rightfully, condemning the actions by Polish President Kaczynski and his posse. If this mess wasn't so serious, I would say it's just plain ridiculous. If you can't deal with a joke or two from some foreign newspaper, how do you plan to run a country?

The freedom of speech is crucial in a democracy. Unfortunately Polish law has some remnants of the communist approach, making it illegal to "insult" an institution established under the Polish constitution. Of course it's the same constitution that ensures "the freedom to express opinions, to acquire and to disseminate information" in Article 54. And who's to say what an "insult" is? I mean, really, is saying that somebody is a "kartoffel" a serious insult? And what kind of law goes outside of its borders to persecute a foreign newspaper published in a neighboring country? Total silliness.

How far are the Kaczynski brothers and the rest of PiS from the Muslim leaders who threatened Denmark over the Mohammed cartoons? At least Mohammed established a religion. The leaders of the Duck Republic only starred in a silly communist movie back in the 1960's.

2 comments:

Alex said...

Where in the constitution does it say that it is illegal?
Thanks
Alex

Chris Borowski said...

Hey Alex,

Which part do you mean? Do you mean that it's illegal to insult an institution established under the Polish constitution? That is not in the constitution itself. But article 226.3 of the criminal code (http://tinyurl.com/rl77f) punishes with a fine or up to two years in prison for insulting an institution established under the national constitution.

But that is my point. Article 54 of the constitution ensures "the freedom to express opinions." Seems like that clashes with the criminal code because even an insult is an expression of an opinion. This should especially be the case in case of public figures because they have the power to refute any such opinions or insults. So the constitution, the country's primary law, should trump the criminal code.