THE FIRST verdict in the infamous Bonanno case was delivered on June 16, ordering the Nový Čas tabloid daily to apologise to Supreme Court Judge Daniel Hudák.

Ringier Axel Springer, the publisher of the Nový Čas daily, faces a series of lawsuits concerning the publishing of photos from a private meeting of lawyers and judges, dubbed the Judiciary Oscars Association, in the Bonanno bar in Rajecké Teplice in autumn 2010. The lawsuits’ demands amount to a total of €940,000 in damages.

Back in late August 2010, Ľubomír Harman, a 48-year-old man wearing blue ear defenders and armed with an assault rifle, shot dead seven people before killing himself in Devínska Nová Ves. The Judiciary Oscars Association met two months after the shooting spree in October 2010, and in June 2011 Nový Čas published images from the party of retired judge Tibor Péchy sporting blue ear defenders and carrying an imitation assault rifle, plus video footage of the meeting. The judges and the senior prosecutor are objecting to associations made between the images from the meeting at the Bonanno bar and the mass murderer, arguing that there was no mimicking of Harman.

In the first verdict in the case, the Bratislava II District Court ruled Nový Čas must apologise to Hudák, but has not decided on the damages he should receive yet. Hudák demanded a sum of €100,000, according to SITA. The damages are to be decided only once the Regional Court rules the verdict effective.

The court claims that the newspaper interfered with Hudák’s right to the protection of personal integrity, SITA reported, citing the verdict. The verdict also mentions inappropriate criticism and inadequate evaluating statements featured in the original article.

The court also claims that Nový Čas violated the law by publishing the picture of Judge Hudák along with his name without his consent.

“It is a case that can be beautifully extended to journalists, to publicly active persons,” Hudák told journalists following the ruling, SITA quoted. “We will try for the borderline between these two opposing poles to gain certain character features.”

The publisher of the daily will appeal against the verdict, with its solicitor Róbert Bános saying they do not agree with the ruling.

“We have done all to prove that the meeting occurred, we provided an evaluation from the Czech Republic that confirmed the published pictures were authentic,” Bános told SITA.

The Slovak branch of the International Press Institute (IPI) has expressed concerns about the verdict.

“Judges of the Bratislava II District Court have demonstrated solidarity of judges on a wrong place and condemned the Nový Čas daily for publishing facts about inappropriate behaviour of judges, prosecutors and other people from the judiciary,” Pavol Múdry of IPI told The Slovak Spectator. “By doing so, they transferred the guilt from persons who failed morally to a medium that published it in the public interest.”

IPI Slovensko called on the regional court to take into consideration the unambiguous photographic and video evidence and “to cancel this incomprehensible verdict”. IPI pledged to keep its foreign partners updated on the case.

Source: SITA, IPI statement

Compiled by Michaela Terenzani from press reports.
The Slovak Spectator cannot vouch for the accuracy of the information
presented in its Flash News postings.