'HYGIENE CERTIFICATE' CASE TAKES STUNNING TWIST

Roma journalist charged with assault

ROMA journalist Denisa Havrľová, who was asked for a hygiene certificate by a police officer who refused to shake her hand, has been charged with assault on a public official. If convicted, she faces up to one year in jail or a fine.
Havrľová was charged with attacking Peter S. from Jarovnice on April 16. She works for the Prešov-based Romano Lil Nevo newspaper, which focuses on Roma issues.


DENISA Havrľová.
photo: TASR

ROMA journalist Denisa Havrľová, who was asked for a hygiene certificate by a police officer who refused to shake her hand, has been charged with assault on a public official. If convicted, she faces up to one year in jail or a fine.

Havrľová was charged with attacking Peter S. from Jarovnice on April 16. She works for the Prešov-based Romano Lil Nevo newspaper, which focuses on Roma issues.

The incident in question occurred February 8, and has drawn extensive media coverage of what both Havrľová and senior Interior Ministry officials allege was inappropriate conduct with racist overtones.

But Stanislav Ryban, spokesman for the Chief Investigator's Office, said that Havrľová had seriously damaged the officer's reputation by giving false information to the media and by calling Peter S. a racist. Ryban said the policeman's case was backed up by a man who claimed to have witnessed the incident, and who at the time was being questioned at the police station.

Havrľová denied that she had called Peter S. a racist.

"What I said was, 'Don't you think your behaviour is an expression of racism?'," Havrľová told The Slovak Spectator. "I would never dare to say what he's accusing me of. I'm a journalist and I weigh my words," she added.

She said the situation she found herself in was "absurd".

"It's had a very bad effect on me. It makes me doubt whether we live in a democratic legal state. The fact that I have been charged is absurd."

The incident drew Interior Minister Ivan Šimko into criticism of senior police officers after Jozef Vojduľa, head of the Prešov regional police force, defended Peter S. by saying public officials were not obliged to shake hands with anyone and had an obligation to protect their own health.

Following a police inspection of the case, Šimko apologised to Havrľová for the officer's conduct in March. The minister expressed his belief that the investigators would take a just stand in the proceedings against Havrľová.

"The charges are a mockery of justice, and we will definitely appeal them," said Havrľová's lawyer, Ján Hrubala.

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