THE PROSECUTION of journalist Aleš Krátky by President Rudolf Schuster has been thrown into doubt after the Constitutional Court suspended two paragraphs of the penal code.
The court on January 10 suspended paragraphs 102 and 103 of the Penal Code on the defamation of state and public officials, including the president.
The President of the Constitutional Court, Ján Mazák, said after the decision: "In practice these paragraphs threatened freedom of speech."
President Rudolf Schuster has launched legal action under paragraph 103 against Aleš Krátky, a journalist at the country's biggest daily, over a column written in May last year.
Krátky's article criticised the head of state as an "egomaniac incapable of leading a country". Commenting on a state-of-the nation address given by Schuster that month, he said the president had "indicated signs of mental incapacity to lead a country that is trying to join modern and developed nations".
The president has said that he will respect the court's ruling but insisted that the prosecution against Krátky was justified.
However, some lawyers have suggested that Schuster may now change his legal action based on another paragraph of the code - 156.
Under that paragraph anyone grossly insulting or slandering a public official faces a year in prison or payment of financial compensation. Under paragraphs 102 and 103 Krátky would have faced two years in prison of convicted.
Many politicians welcomed the court's verdict. Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda said: "We will always defend basic human rights and freedoms."
Deputy Prime Minister for Minorities and Human Rights, Pál Csáky, also welcomed the suspension of the paragraphs, saying they should not be part of a democratic legal system.
The Head of Office at the Justice Ministry and deputy chairman of the KDH, Daniel Lipšic, added: "The two paragraphs are in conflict with the constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression."
However, Tomáš Galbavý, MP for the SDKŮ party, and who brought a complaint to the Constitutional Court on paragraphs 102, 103 and 156, said the judges should have suspended the latter paragraph as well.
The High Court is expected to review paragraph 156 at a later date.
21. Jan 2002 at 0:00 | Ed Holt