born October 17, 1946 in Warsaw, is a historian, essayist and political publicist, the author of many articles and books, including Kościół, lewica, dialog (Church and the Left, 1977), Szanse polskiej demokracji (The Opportunities of Democratic Poland, 1984), Wyznania nawróconego dysydenta (Confessions of a Converted Dissident, 2003) and W poszukiwaniu utraconego sensu (In Search of Lost Meaning, 2007). Since May 1989 he has been editor-in-chief of Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland’s biggest daily paper.
At high school, Michnik co-organised the Seekers of Contradictions debating club. As a student of history at the Warsaw University, he was suspended twice: in March 1965 he was sentenced to a two-month detention in connection with the Open Letter to the Members of the Polish Communist Party signed by Jacek Kuroń and Karol Modzelewski, and in 1966, for co-organising a meeting with Leszek Kołakowski. On March 3, 1968 he was expelled for participating in a protest against the decision to stop performing Adam Mickiewicz’s Dziady at the National Theatre and arrested soon afterwards. He completed his studies following an extern programme at the History Department of the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan. He worked as a welder and secretary to the writer Antoni Slonimski. He was a member of the Workers’ Protection Committee (1977-1980), co-founder of and lecturer at the Scholarly Courses Society. Since 1977 he had worked as editor for underground magazines (Biuletyn Informacyjny, Zapis, Krytyka). He served on board of directors of the underground publishing house NOWa. In the years 1980-1981 he was advisor to the Independent Trade Union “Solidarity” leaders in the Mazowsze region and the “Solidarity” Workers’ Committee at the Lenin Steelworks in Nowa Huta near Krakow. Repeatedly arrested, he was sentenced to internal exile on December 13, 1981, to be released as a part of an amnesty in 1986. He participated in the Round Table talks of 1989.
He holds honorary doctorates from many universities around the world and is the recipient of many Polish and international prizes, such as the French PEN-Club’s Prix de la Liberté, the Koscielski Foundation Prize (1986), the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award, the Francisco Cerecedo Prize for journalism (1999; Michnik being the first non-Spanish recipient in its history). He was the only Polish journalist to feature on the International Press Institute’s list of fifty “Press Freedom Heroes” announced on May 3, 2000. It is an honour awarded to journalists and publishers for outstanding services to media development.
Michnik is the recipient of some of the highest decorations of many countries: Officer Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary, the Bernardo O’Higgins Order, one of Chile’s highest honours, the Lithuanian Gedymina Order for his contribution to increased cooperation between Poland and Lithuania, Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Czech Tomas G. Masaryk Order, third class, for outstanding services to democracy and human rights, and many others. In 2003 Michnik was awarded the French Legion of Honour and in 2005, the Gloria Artis medal, bestowed by the Polish Minister for Culture.
In 2007 he was Poland’s and the EU’s mediator for the freedom of media in Georgia. In 2008 he was elected Ambassador of the International Year of Dialogue.