Press Freedom in Ropczycka, Poland

Sims, Watson
June 2005
Nieman Reports;Summer2005, Vol. 59 Issue 2, p96
This article focuses on the author's involvement in solving a problem facing a local newspaper in Ropczycka, Poland. The first issue of Ziemia Ropczycka was published in April 1990, and immediately the paper was in trouble with the mayor because of a story involving the village's medical clinic. Its director had retired and a contest was held to choose his successor. The contest committee selected a popular doctor, but the regional government rejected the nomination without explanation. Ziemia demanded a reason and asked whether it was because the doctor did not belong to the Solidarity Party. Mayor Stanislaw Hulek, who was a member of Solidarity, asked Ziemia to lay off the story, but the paper continued to demand an explanation. In the standoff between the mayor and the newspaper, it appeared that someone telephoned the American Embassy for advice, and I, supposedly an expert on press freedom, was dispatched to try to help resolve the situation. In a meeting with members of Ziemia's advisory council, I proposed that they seek a meeting with the mayor, since it was he who first suggested the need for a newspaper. Perhaps he could be persuaded of Ziemia's good will and potential for improving the quality of life for all citizens. But the mayor would not meet with us. Remembering some of my own experiences with mayors and business leaders in Battle Creek, Michigan, and New Brunswick, New Jersey, I could only advise Zbigniew Dobrowolski, the newspaper's editor, to keep trying. It would not be an easy trip, but press freedom in Ropczycka seemed off to a good start.


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