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Syndicate of Journalists expresses concern over Radio Viva court verdict

A court’s decision to fine Radio Viva Sk1 million does not contribute to freedom of expression in Slovak society, according to the Slovak Syndicate of Journalists (SSN).

A court’s decision to fine Radio Viva Sk1 million does not contribute to freedom of expression in Slovak society, according to the Slovak Syndicate of Journalists (SSN).

In an October 14 decision which was published last week, the Bratislava Regional Court ruled that Radio Viva, the successor station to Radio Twist, must pay damages of Sk1 million (€33,194) to a Michalovce Regional Court judge for "incorrect and truth-distorting statements" broadcast about him on October 7, 2004.

The decision "makes journalists insecure in doing their jobs and may lead to speculative lawsuits concerning protection of personality," the SSN said. The SSN has called for problems concerning journalistic work to be resolved by use of means offered by the Press Code, such as requests for corrections or responses. According to the SSN, it is also possible to turn to the Slovak Press Council. It said that large fines are wrong, and often have a destructive effect on the media.

The SSN pointed out that that the judge at the centre of the case did not ask the radio station to broadcast a report on his acquittal and turned directly to court.

On October 7, 2004, Radio Twist broadcast a report from a news conference held by Interior Minister Vladimír Palko, where he announced that police had filed charges against the Michalovce judge. The Radio Twist presenter paraphrased part of Palko's report on the police investigation, leading to the court case against it. SITA

Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
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