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Court bans book about Gorilla file

A SLOVAK court has banned a book about alleged high-level political corruption written by investigative journalist Tom Nicholson prior to its publication. In a ruling issued in early February the court ordered Nicholson's publisher, Petit Press, which also publishes The Slovak Spectator, to desist from publishing the book or any other documents based on the so-called Gorilla file, a document which contains transcripts purporting to originate from conversations covertly recorded by the country’s SIS intelligence service between 2005 and 2006. The file is already accessible on the internet. The court also ordered Nicholson to submit his final manuscript as well as documents that he had gathered in order to write the book, the Sme daily reported.

Tom Nicholson(Source: TASR)

A SLOVAK court has banned a book about alleged high-level political corruption written by investigative journalist Tom Nicholson prior to its publication. In a ruling issued in early February the court ordered Nicholson's publisher, Petit Press, which also publishes The Slovak Spectator, to desist from publishing the book or any other documents based on the so-called Gorilla file, a document which contains transcripts purporting to originate from conversations covertly recorded by the country’s SIS intelligence service between 2005 and 2006. The file is already accessible on the internet. The court also ordered Nicholson to submit his final manuscript as well as documents that he had gathered in order to write the book, the Sme daily reported.

The Bratislava I District Court issued the preliminary injunction in response to a complaint submitted by a co-owner of the Penta financial group, Jaroslav Haščák, whose name is featured in the Gorilla file in association with conversations he is alleged to have had with senior officials and politicians from the ruling coalition in 2005 and 2006.

“I think that they [Penta] are more likely to cause harm to themselves than to me by such a ruling,” Nicholson, former reporter of Sme and former editor of The Slovak Spectator, told the TASR newswire.

In response to the court’s order for Nicholson to submit his manuscript, he said that he was not certain that he still had it in his possession.

The Slovak branch of the International Press Institute (IPI) issued a statement criticising the decision of the court.

“By this unprecedented decision, according to IPI Slovensko, the court has committed censorship, which is expressly banned by the Slovak Constitution,” the statement read.

The IPI is demanding that a higher court immediately overturn the district court's decision in order to secure the basic human right to freedom of speech and expression. The IPI also said that it would inform its partner organisations abroad about the decision, while carefully monitoring developments in the case and supporting Nicholson and Petit Press so that they could exercise their right to freedom of speech and expression.

“As long as we are in a law-based state, every individual or organisation has a right to claim its rights in a legal way,” said Penta spokesman Martin Danko, as quoted by TASR. He refused to comment on the group's next legal steps.

Nicholson originally wanted to publish his book before the general election on March 10. According to earlier media reports he had experienced problems getting the book published from the beginning, saying "the original publisher got cold feet".

The book, entitled "Gorila", is already available to order at one of Slovakia's biggest online bookstores, Martinus.sk, which began listing it at the beginning of the year. Customers can order it without obligation or put it onto their "Wish List" via the website, TASR reported.

The decision in the Nicholson case was issued by Branislav Král, the same district court judge who last year ordered former Slovak president Michal Kováč to apologise to former SIS director Ivan Lexa and to pay him compensation of €3,319 for statements Kováč had made linking him to the 1995 abduction of his son, Michal Kováč Jr. Investigation of the abduction, and suspicions of SIS involvement in it, were halted by blanket amnesties issued by acting president Vladimír Mečiar, Lexa's political patron, in 1998.

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