FOR Communication 17/2023: Return to the Polish People’s Republic: banning photography will not replace the professional counterintelligence services
- With the votes of the ruling coalition, the Parliament passed an amendment to the Penal Code and several other laws.
- The law, which amends the National Defense Act, reintroduces a ban on photographing - very broadly defined - objects of strategic importance. Such strategic objects can include, for example, bridges, railway stations, hospitals, GSM transmitters, or even certain universities.
- The list of objects of strategic importance for national security and critical infrastructure that may be subject to a photography ban is not publicly available. Citizens will not be able to determine whether a specific object falls under this ban.
- This ban not only is entirely ineffective and is a significant intrusion into citizens' lives, but it also gives a false sense of contentment to state’s institutions responsible for security. Legal solutions reminiscent of the 1950s are not adequate to today's technological advancements.
Which objects are strategic? It’s not clear
The amendment introduces a ban on photographing and filming:
- Objects of strategic importance to the security or defense of the state.
- Objects belonging to the national defense ministry.
- Critical infrastructure objects – in cases where they are marked with a "Do not photograph" sign.
- Individuals and property located within the above-mentioned objects.
The act uses terms defined in the ordinance issued on the basis of the National Defense Act (objects of strategic importance for state security) and the Crisis Management Act (critical infrastructure objects).
Objects of strategic importance for state security might include:
- Warehouses, including those for gas and oil, power stations.
- Bridges, overpasses, and tunnels on roads and railway lines of defensive importance.
- Postal and telecommunications operators' facilities.
- Facilities of the National Bank of Poland (NBP).
- Facilities subject to or supervised by the Minister of Justice – including courts.
- Power plants, mines, transmission networks.
- Companies using hazardous materials.
Critical infrastructure objects include systems:
- Energy, water, and food supply.
- Communication and information networks.
- Financial systems.
In this case, the list of objects which are actually on the list also will not be publicly available. However, for critical infrastructure objects – unlike objects of strategic importance for state security – it will be necessary to display a "Do not photograph" sign.
Photographing or recording the aforementioned objects is to be considered a misdemeanor punishable by arrest or a fine. The court may also rule the confiscation of items used to commit the misdemeanor, such as cameras, photographic devices, drones, and other equipment on which the recordings were stored or preserved.
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Contact to author:
Bartłomiej Jabrzyk, FOR analyst
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