IT IS now uncertain whether Supreme Court President Štefan Harabin will keep the compensation he received from the publisher of the Plus Jeden Deň daily as the result of a court case four years ago.
The Bratislava Regional Court ordered the paper’s publisher to pay €16,666 to Harabin – then justice minister – for publishing an article entitled ‘Harabin protects murderers’. However, the publisher appealed to the Constitutional Court, and in September it ruled that the regional court’s verdict had violated the newspaper’s freedom of expression, cancelled the ruling and returned the case back to the regional court, the Sme daily reported in early December.
The senate of the Constitutional Court that ruled on the case, including judges Ladislav Orosz and Sergej Kohut, has previously been accused by Harabin of being biased. The European Court for Human Rights last month censured the Constitutional Court for failing to take into account Harabin’s allegations of bias against the judges in a separate case.
“I don’t know if these judges would like to read that they protect murderers,” Harabin said, as quoted by Sme.
The Constitutional Court argued in its ruling that the regional court made a mistake by not considering the context of the article in question, saying that the title of a story is part of the article and is meant to draw the readers’ interest, and that the reader should then form an opinion based on the information in the article.
“It is a significant decision that clarifies how article titles can be formulated,” lawyer Peter Wilfling said, as quoted by Sme. “A title cannot automatically be considered a claim whose truthfulness should be proved by the media.”
Constitutional Court judges also noted that at the time the article was published, Harabin served as justice minister and thus had to bear an increased burden of criticism.