WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A conservative American activist and Steve Bannon protege has lost a defamation case against a Polish journalist who described him as “Trump's man” and someone who by association was indirectly linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Matthew Tyrmand, a 38-year-old American with Polish roots, has written for Breitbart and is a board member of the organization Project Veritas, which carries out undercover stings against liberal and mainstream media.
He sued journalist Tomasz Piatek and Agora, publisher of the liberal Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, over a 2016 article that described Tyrmand as "part of the global war by the right wing against democracy."
Judge Jacek Tyszka rejected Tyrmand's argument that he had been defamed and ordered Tyrmand to pay 4,000 zlotys ($1,050) to the reporter and the same amount to Agora.
Tyrmand in his suit had demanded an apology and 50,000 Polish zlotys ($13,200) for charity.
Piatek and the newspaper welcomed the ruling.
“It's a victory for freedom of speech,” Piatek's lawyer, Piotr Rogowski, told The Associated Press after the decision was read in Warsaw's district court. “Tyrmand presents himself as a supporter of freedom in the United States and he comes here and acts like a censor.”
Tyrmand was not in court Friday and could not be immediately reached for comment. He has said was fighting to defend his reputation.
In testimony last year, he argued the article connected him “in this tenuous guilt-by-association to Vladimir Putin.” He called it the “biggest slander and slur” possible in a part of Europe that had “achieved independence from the Soviet tyranny.”
The editors of Gazeta Wyborcza view the case as one element in a larger battle by populist right-wing forces against liberal independent media. Gazeta Wyborcza is also being sued in 50 other cases by Poland's ruling populist party and its allies over articles that are critical and have exposed high-level corruption.
Tyrmand, who when he brought the case in 2017 was close to Poland's right-wing government, has said he would like to see Gazeta Wyborcza fail.
“They want to waste our time and have a chilling effect on our reporting,” the newspaper's deputy editor Bartosz Wielinski told the AP.