European Federation of Journalists

Poland: we demand a fair trial for journalist Pablo González, in pre-trial detention for two years

Spanish journalist Pablo González reporting on air for Spanish television La Sexta. Credits: La Sexta.

Spanish freelance reporter Pablo González is the only journalist imprisoned in an EU member state. On 28 February, it will be two years since he was arrested and held in pre-trial detention in Poland without any evidence of the allegations against him being made public and no trial in sight. The International and European Federations of Journalists (IFJ-EFJ), together with their Spanish affiliates, urge the Polish authorities to release him, so that he can defend himself in court, and ensure that he receives a fair trial.

A Polish court extended González’s pre-trial detention for the eighth time on 15 February 2024, meaning he will spend up to a further three months in prison, accused of being “an agent of Russian intelligence”.

“There are no maximum terms for detention in Poland. Pre-trial detention, even for several years, is common in large cases. If someone is from abroad, the Court often recognizes that there is a fear of escape, which is one of the reasons for arrest,” Bartosz Rogała told the IFJ one year ago, when he was González’ defender.

The journalist’s wife, Oihana Goiriena, condemned on several occasions the conditions to which the Spanish journalist is subject in prison. “Pablo is treated as a dangerous prisoner, so each day he spends 23 hours isolated in his cell and is only allowed to go out into the courtyard for one hour”. Created by his family and friends, the association #FreePabloGonzález has criticised the lack of transparency and information around the case.

In the early hours of 28 February 2022, González was arrested by officers of the Polish Security Service (ABW) while covering the humanitarian crisis on the Polish-Ukrainian border following the Russian invasion. Specialising in the post-Soviet world, the journalist was a regular contributor to the Spanish daily Público, television channel La Sexta and the Basque publication Gara.

Following parliamentary elections in October 2023, Poland has a new government whose plans to restore rule of law have been welcomed by the EU. The IFJ and the EFJ hope that the new executive will review González’s case and the Polish justice system will bring the charges against him, if any, so that he can defend himself.

“It is unacceptable for an EU member state to detain a journalist in such an arbitrary manner. Not only are Pablo González’s fundamental rights as a citizen and as a journalist being violated, but so is the freedom of the press and the public’s right to know,” reiterated the IFJ-EFJ.

The IFJ-EFJ call on Poland to respect the European Convention on Human Rights: “Everyone arrested or detained (…) shall be brought promptly before a judge (…) and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release pending trial”.

Miguel Ángel Noceda, President of the Federation of Spanish Journalists’ Associations (FAPE), said: “We reiterate our commitment to the release of the journalist González. It is intolerable that he continues to be held in prison, most of the time incommunicado, two years after his arrest. The continuous extensions imposed by the Polish judicial authorities on his pre-trial detention make his forced detention a real torture”.

The Association of Journalists in Spain (UGT) called for the immediate release of journalist Pablo González. “It is intolerable that he has been imprisoned for two years, with very serious accusations and awaiting trial. We ask that the trial be held as soon as possible, that it has all the legal guarantees of a democratic state and that the journalist be able to defend himself freely.”

Agustín Yanel, Secretary General of the Federation of Journalists’ Trade Unions (FeSP), claimed: “[…] The EU and the Spanish government must demand that Poland immediately release this journalist on bail and that it bring the charges against him so that he can prepare his defence and receive a fair trial with all the guarantees”.

The Federation of Citizen’s Services of Comisiones Obreras (FSC-CCOO) said: “We cannot understand that a so-called democratic EU state can keep a journalist in jail for two years without trial and without heeding international demands. We once again ask the Spanish state to do everything in its power to obtain González’s release because freedom of the press also means defending the legislative guarantees that protect it”

On 8 March 2022, the IFJ and the EFJ cosigned, together with the International Press Institute (IPI) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an alert to the Council of Europe’s Platform for the Protection of Journalists, which to date has received no response from the Polish authorities.