SLOVAKIA will have to pay almost €30,000 to the Ringier Axel Springer Slovakia publishing house based on a decision by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg.
Ringier Axel Springer contested two verdicts, the Pravda daily wrote on January 8. The ECHR ruled that in these two cases, Slovak courts did not properly uphold the public interest balancing the newspaper Nový Čas’ right to freedom of expression against the claimants’ right to protection of privacy.
One of the cases, for which the publisher should get €14,000, dates back to 2001. In October of that year, the daily reported on a car accident in which the son of a local district prosecutor was killed. The driver who caused the accident was detained and imprisoned. The daily published the full name of the victim and the prosecutor and wrote that the prosecution and the courts violated the human rights of the driver, because “his file is roaming the region like a hot potato”, the SITA newswire reported.
The prosecutor filed a libel lawsuit against Ringier in 2003, which resulted in a ruling ordering the publisher to apologise and pay €2,600 in damages. The Constitutional Court refused the appeal of the publisher as ungrounded.
The ECHR now ruled that the Slovak courts failed to assess the case in a wider context of the story and did not evaluate the circumstances of the case regarding the publisher observing his duties and responsibilities in line with the international documents, thus violating the publisher’s right to freedom of expression.
The second case concerned a Nový Čas story about a contestant in a televised quiz show who was allegedly investigated by the police for having cheated via secret electronic devices. The Bratislava II District Court ordered the publisher to apologise and pay damage compensation of about €1,450, according to SITA.
The ECHR ruled that the courts did not appropriately consider whether the stories concern the public interest, and granted the publisher €15,700 in damages.
The Slovak government’s representative at the ECHR, Marica Pirošíková, expressed her regret over what she called a formalistic approach of the Constitutional Court.