The article 6 of the Polish Constitution imposes an obligation on the State to provide all Polish citizens with equal access to cultural goods, as well as to provide its citizens abroad with help to maintain their relations with national cultural heritage. Furthermore, the article 73 of the Constitution guarantees Polish citizens the right to freedom of artistic expression, to conduct scientific research and publish its results, freedom of education and freedom to use cultural goods. The Constitution also guarantees freedom of conscience and freedom of speech.
In recent years, there were several cases in which these rights have been challenged. In 2017, Teatr Powszechny premiered a spectacle “The Curse”, which sparked a controversy for allegedly showing religious symbolism in a negative context. In April 2019, an artist in Poland has been accused of profanation of a religious image by creating a poster of the Virgin Mary with a rainbow halo in support of the LGBTQ+ rights. These cases triggered a public debate regarding the balance between the freedom of artistic expression and blasphemy.
More recently, in May 2020, during the live broadcast of the Eurovision contest, the public television broadcaster replaced fragments of a transgender presenter with commercials. Such actions have been criticized as an attempt to censor the content. The broadcaster denied any allegations, stating that the timing of commercials only coincidently corresponded with this particular presenter’s airtime.
There are several bodies involved in the protection of the freedom of artistic expression and more broadly the right to freedom of speech. The main one responsible for monitoring, diagnosing and preventing the abuse of these rights is the Polish Ombudsman – an independent central office of the Republic of Poland. The office is elected for the term of five years by an act of Sejm and accepted by the Senate. The ombudsman can serve up to two terms. Others include non-governmental organisations, such as the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Amnesty International Poland, Stefan Batory Foundation or Press Freedom Monitoring Center.
The right to equal access to cultural goods in many cases is being exercised by local governments. According to Polish law, local authorities are obliged to organise and manage cultural activities in the form of creation of public cultural institutions, such as libraries and cultural centres.
The right to protect the intellectual and material benefits accruing from scientific, literary and artistic production is guaranteed by the Act of 4 February 1994 on copyright and related rights. The excise of these rights are entrusted to the collective management organisations, which in turn are regulated by the Act of 15 June 2018 on collective management of copyright and related rights. According to the information provided by the central government, currently there are 12 collective management organisations in Poland authorized by the Minister of Culture:
- KOPIPOL (creators of scientific and technical works)
- REPROPOL (press publishers)
- SAiW Copyright Polska (book publishers)
- SAWP (performers)
- SFP (filmmakers and audiovisual producers)
- STL (folklore creators)
- STOART (performers)
- ZAiKS (authors)
- ZASP (theater artists)
- ZPAF (photographers)
- ZPAP (visual artists)
- ZPAV (music and audiovisual producers)