Monday 11 July 2011

In Defense of Free Speech and Tenants' Rights

Today the lawsuit against the Tenants' Defense Committee started. A couple of members of ZSP who are also in the Committee are being sued for making a film where tenants describe their problems with their landlady.

A small picket was held outside the court. The corridors were filled with tenants and journalists who filmed the people, who were all telling stories of their difficult and even desperate living situation. There was no place at all in the courtroom and the judge was a little consternated when a group of elderly women just decided to sit on the floor of the courtroom. The landlady was not present, but was represented by her lawyer, who had been involved in a very famous case related to slander on TV in the past. The TV stations were denied permission to film and some people wanted to speak out to the judge. After some minutes, things calmed down and the Committee, which was defending itself, submitted its arguments to the court, as well as evidence. The documents submitted were mostly related to what was said in the film. Among other things, the landlady claims that the tenant is not telling the truth, but most of what was said can be confirmed in one way or another.

The lawyer for the other side asked the judge to order us to remove the material from the internet immediately, but our comrade argued that, since the result of such an action would be the same as one of the goals of the lawsuit, such an order would result in the Claimant receiving what she wanted before the case was even heard. This argument was accepted by the judge and all material will remain in place. Due to the interest in the case, many people viewed the film over the last few days, at times crashing the site due to too many visitors.

The Committee published the details of their main legal arguments on their page. Without going into all the technical details of the case, it stated that to the best of its knowledge that all the information in the film was true, that it checked many documents related to the case beforehand and that the landlady made no attempt to correct any of the information for many months before she decided to sue us. It presented document to defend this. In addition, in response to claims from the other party that it slandered the landlady because it did not ask for her side of the story for the film, we pointed to the press law which explicitly states that journalists have no obligation to do this. The Committee defended the rights of people to make negative comments on the internet, as long as it is their opinion, not false information.

The Committee also commented to the press on that matter, telling about how some enraged internaut commented on the portal of the main newspaper under an article about the case that "Mossakowski should deal with those red spiders", which is a clear reference to the case of our friend, Jola Brzeska, who has burned alive in the woods.  Despite the fact that we do not find her murder to be funny in the least, we treat such ravings quite lightly and announced that we would not sue the newspaper for publishing that comment.

The Committee has to return to court at the end of October, so the case may drag on a while. In the meanwhile, the tenants in the film still live in bad conditions and constant anxiety as the landlady tries to evict them.