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Reporting in the Polish Sejm

Monika Rydel (Poland)

Ms. Schwarz-van Poppel gives the floor to Ms. Monika Rydel for a reaction on the Finnish contribution. Ms. Rydel, who is an editor at the Polish Senate, tells about the situation in the Polish Sejm and the way the report is produced there, focusing on the differences with the Finnish system, and taking into account the exchange of ideas on this topic between the Polish and Finnish reporting services that took place before the start of the conference.

To begin with, Ms. Rydel underlines that in Polish parliament there is only one version of the report. The report that is produced and published online after every sitting is the final product. The department that is responsible for the report, does not revise the report once the sitting is over. Editors do not listen to the audio file again either. This has to do with the fact that the department has also other duties to perform between sittings. For instance, employees of the department also have to draft legal acts and proofread interpellations submitted by the MPs.

Secondly, Ms. Rydel discusses the difficulties that the department encounters during the reporting process. The main problem is connected with the role of stenographers in the Polish Sejm. In the Polish parliament, there is a division of roles between freelance stenographers on the one hand and editors on the other hand. The editors do not work in the plenary hall. It is the freelance stenographers who are responsible for writing down what is going on during the debate and noting all the additional actions, such as interruptions shouted by the MPs, any unusual behaviour, et cetera. However, a single stenographer sitting in the plenary hall, using pen shorthand, is not always able to register everything that is going on at the same time during the debate, especially if the debate is heated. This sometimes causes gaps in the report, which are difficult to fill in for the editors. When the speaker refers to an interruption that has not been included in the report, the speaker’s response becomes incomprehensible for the reader.

Another problem has to do with comments that are put in the wrong place by the stenographer. The editor usually tries to correct that afterwards. However, this often requires contacting the stenographer concerned, which takes time and is sometimes not even feasible, especially in the late hours. For these reasons, the reports department is now considering a new solution for the work of stenographers.

Finally, Ms. Rydel points to the fact that a video record of the proceedings is available on the Sejm’s official website. As a consequence, everyone can compare the report with the recording and notice any difference. In the standing orders of the Sejm, it is indicated that the report is a stylistically edited document. Unfortunately, citizens and even the media are not aware of that rule. Thus, they do not understand that discrepancies between the written account and the recorded form are inevitable, and they sometimes seem to be surprised or even indignant at that. In addition, there are no rules or regulations indicating what exactly can be altered on the MPs’ request. Every authorization poses a dilemma. The MPs are entitled to ask for changes, but the reports department must be careful in complying with their requests, in order not to be accused of manipulation. Every case has to be considered separately, and the final decision is always taken by the head of the department.

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