Big Poland is watching them

A scandal is gathering steam in Poland after it was revealed security services illegally wiretap journalists and politicians. Critics say the extent of bugging in the country is an attack on human rights.

Wiretapping is making it tougher to be an investigative reporter in Poland. A few years ago, a journalist from the newspaper Wyborcza, Woiceijh Czuchnowski, found himself in the middle of a wiretapping scandal. One of his contacts was eavesdropped on by the Security Services and they also placed a bug on Woicejh’s phone.

Woiceijh Czuchnowski told RT that, “Now most of our informants are now refusing to talk on the phone. Not only secret informers, but just people who have valuable information, but prefer to keep a low profile. They’re scared, because of all the wire-tapping hysteria.”

Woiciech's case isn't isolated. The Reczpospolita newspaper claims one of its reporters – along with two other journalists – have had their phones intercepted by the police, without the proper authorization.

"If my conversations were listened to without proper court permission, if the tap was illegal, then my fundamental rights have been broken," Bogdan Rymanovski, a TVN reporter, claims.

One of the targeted journalists is suspected of blackmailing his contacts, but two others were believed to be absolutely innocent and thus had no legal right to be bugged.

In Poland, security services must first obtain permission for wire-tapping from a court. But the head of the Polish domestic security agency has admitted this system seldom works properly.

“Courts usually grant these concerns post factum. In almost 100 percent of cases,” Adam Bodnar, from the Helsinki Human Rights Foundation, says “They are not perfectly regulated and there’s a great risk to human rights. Every 2-3 months we have such affairs involving Special Services.”

According to Polish law, unless recorded conversations are to be used as evidence they must be destroyed. In this case they weren’t, and could’ve been used for other purposes.

Now Prime Minister Donald Tusk has ordered checks on the Polish security services.

Newspapers in Poland are speculating whether this could lead to the intelligence head’s early retirement.

The opposition says both men must go for what they call breaching the freedom of the press.

This latest wire-tapping case has created a political storm in Poland, even forcing the prime minister’s intervention. But human rights activists fear that, until eavesdropping is officially regulated in Poland, no journalist can work freely without being watched.