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Last Updated: Monday, 16 January 2006, 18:37 GMT
Jail term for Polish journalist
Polish President Lech Kaczynski
President Lech Kaczynski has been asked to pardon Marek
A Polish journalist has been jailed for defaming a local official, despite international appeals on his behalf.

Andrzej Marek again proclaimed his innocence as his three-month prison term began in Szczecin on Monday.

He was convicted in 2002 of libelling an official in the town of Police by saying the man used his position to promote his advertising business.

Rights groups have protested against the sentence, noting he is the only person in the EU imprisoned for libel.

Ann Cooper, the executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), said she was "deeply troubled" by the court ruling.

"This case demonstrates the urgent need for Polish authorities to eliminate laws that criminalise libel," she said in a statement before Marek was jailed.

She called on Polish President Lech Kaczynski to pardon him.

Fought to top

Mr Kaczynski is to review the case, his chief of staff told the AFP news agency.

His predecessor, Aleksander Kwasniewski, declined to pardon the journalist, who fought the sentence all the way to Poland's Supreme Court.

A local court said in 2004 it would suspend Marek's jail sentence if he apologised, but he refused.

One of Poland's best known newspaper editors was fined last year for ridiculing then-Pope John Paul II.

A court in Warsaw ordered Jerzy Urban to pay the equivalent of $6,500 for insulting a head of state by writing a satirical article on the eve of the pontiff's 2002 visit to Poland.

Mr Urban, 71, said he was exercising the right to free expression.

The press freedom group Reporters without Borders said at the time that the prosecution set a "dangerous precedent" for an EU state.


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