Prime Minister Robert Fico won a libel lawsuit against the publishing company of the Trend weekly as the Bratislava Regional Court ruled on April 29 that the publisher must pay €8,000 in non-pecuniary damages and publish an apology, the SITA newswire wrote.
Fico sued the publisher for the headline in the weekly from September 2007 reading “The Thief of Future Pensions,” requesting €99,600 in non-pecuniary damages. This verdict is not yet final as both sides can file an appeal. Fico's lawyer did not comment on a possible appeal, but the defence lawyer for Trend confirmed that they intend to appeal the verdict.
The court explained its decision by saying that extensive evidence proved that the article represented an unlawful intervention in the personality of the Prime Minister and Trend weekly’s defence was insufficient. According to Fico's legal counsel Zuzana Kupcová, journalist Ján Záborský in his article on pension reform and the second pension pillar had called the PM a “skilful thief”. She said that Záborský was not present at the press conference with Fico and representatives of pension fund management companies and only saw it on television, which the journalist confirmed.
According to the publisher’s lawyer, Rudolf Adamčík, Záborský did not call Fico 'a skilful thief', he only likened him to one. Adamčík alleged the journalist tried to speak to Fico on several occasion before he wrote the article but that the PM refused to communicate with him. Among the witnesses in the lawsuit were the chairman of HZDS, Vladimír Mečiar, and the governor of the National Bank of Slovakia, Ivan Šramko.
The Prime Minister rejected an out-of-court settlement offered by the publisher’s lawyer and asked for a front-page apology. SITA
Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
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