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Pravda to pay Sk3 million to former top judge for cartoons

THE PRVADA daily paper has been ordered to pay Sk3 million (€80,000) in damages to the former chief justice of the Supreme Court, Štefan Harabin, over mocking caricatures and articles it published about him in 2002.

The daily reported that Harabin had distributed bonuses totalling Sk5 million (€130,000) to selected judges, and criticized the chief justice for not using an electronic filing system at the Supreme Court to assign cases to judges impartially, as the law required.

The Slovak Syndicate of Journalists, a national media union, warned that the Bratislava regional court's decision against the daily set a "dangerous precedent that could intimidate the media." The syndicate plans to inform international and European media associations of the case, the SME daily reported.

Harabin, who originally demanded Sk10 million (€260,000) in damages, said he was not interested in money as much as an apology, which he said would demonstrate that it was unacceptable to publish lies under the umbrella of the constitutional right to free expression.

SME also had to pay Sk3 million and apologize to Supreme Court judge Harald Stiffel in a case decided in 2004.

Former Justice Minister Daniel Lipšic said that the damages awarded by the court were excessive. He called it "shocking" that in most libel cases the courts award only symbolic sums, but when judges are the plaintiffs they win millions.

Compiled by Beata Balogová from press reports
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