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OSCE report criticises court cases over media coverage in Slovakia

Despite the criticism from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) of court trials over media coverage in Slovakia, the country’s politicians have done nothing to change the current situation, the Sme daily reported on June 17, in response to the organisation’s report, in which Dunja Mijatović, OSCE representative on freedom of the media, criticises the court hearings involving the Slovak media. In the Regular Report to the Permanent Council, which describes the situation and the freedom of the media, journalists and the internet in Europe and the US, published on June 13, she points to, among other things, her communication with Slovak Foreign Affairs Minister Miroslav Lajčák.

Despite the criticism from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) of court trials over media coverage in Slovakia, the country’s politicians have done nothing to change the current situation, the Sme daily reported on June 17, in response to the organisation’s report, in which Dunja Mijatović, OSCE representative on freedom of the media, criticises the court hearings involving the Slovak media. In the Regular Report to the Permanent Council, which describes the situation and the freedom of the media, journalists and the internet in Europe and the US, published on June 13, she points to, among other things, her communication with Slovak Foreign Affairs Minister Miroslav Lajčák.

In her letter sent to Lajčák on May 2, Mijatović expresses concern about the high amounts awarded by the courts in civil suits against various outlets in the Slovak media. According to her, such amounts might even result in bankruptcy and self-censorship of journalists and publishers, which might endanger the freedom of the media in Slovakia.

“Public officials have to withstand a higher level of criticism from the media,” Mijatović wrote in her letter, as reported by the SITA newswire, pointing to the lawsuits against the Nový Čas tabloid daily and its publisher, Ringier Axel Springer, in which acting general prosecutor and four judges of the Supreme Court asked to be compensated €940,000 for the publishing of photos of them at a private event, or the lawsuit of judge Michal Truban against the Sme daily, in which he has requested €150,000 for an article published in September 2012, which he alleges interfered with his privacy and harmed his reputation.

One of the solutions might be to limit the amount of compensations in civil cases.

Mijatović also mentioned Lajčák’s response, sent on May 24, in which he writes that he agrees with her opinion. He also points to the close links between the freedom of speech and protection of personality, which was confirmed by the European Court of Human Rights in article 10 of the Convention on Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, as reported by SITA.

He also wrote that there are some relevant expert forums that deal with the limiting compensation stemming from lawsuits.

“I hope that the discussions that have already started in Slovakia about the need to decriminalise libel and defamation will soon lead to this very important reform, and that a damage cap will be set in civil defamation cases,” Mijatović wrote in the report.

Source: SITA, Sme

Compiled by Radka Minarechová from press reports

The Slovak Spectator cannot vouch for the accuracy of the information presented in its Flash News postings.

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