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Lawyers demand apology for cartoon

A SWINE dressed in academic gown is handing over a diploma to a man with a pig-like nose in the midst of morphing into a pig, telling him “you have become a doctor of law. There is no better qualification for plundering this country”.

A SWINE dressed in academic gown is handing over a diploma to a man with a pig-like nose in the midst of morphing into a pig, telling him “you have become a doctor of law. There is no better qualification for plundering this country”.

The Slovak Bar Association is apparently not in on the joke in Martin “Shooty” Šútovec’s cartoon – which ran in the Sme daily in July – as the group demands an apology for what they call an “insensitive generalisation”.

“This country has been in the long term run by people who wear the JUDr title in front of their names,” Šútovec, who draws under the name Shooty, told Sme July 31.

The bar association, which encompasses 7,300 people with university and legal education said in its release that it considers its duty “publicly and decisively object to expressions, which can be understood as slandering people only based on their education or association with a profession, while this group is being labelled and named as enemy of the nation on a basis of collective guilt”.

Matúš Kostolný, Sme’s editor-in-chief, says there is no reason to apologise. He says the cartoon could not slander the lawyers since they are doing it “more intensively on their own”. Without many lawyers damaging the reputation of their profession, this cartoon would not be humorous, Kostolný said in Sme.

A statement from the bar association said it does not want to intervene in an unjustified manner into the freedom of expression even in form of cartoons, however it claims that the “freedom of expression must not unjustifiably intervene into the rights of others or belittle these”. It went on to say that the association considers the published cartoon a “dangerous expression, by which a group of people is being slandered only due to their education”.

Minister of Justice Tomáš Borec, who led the bar association before joining the government of Robert Fico remained tight-lipped about his response to Shooty’s cartoon with his spokeswoman Jana Zlatohlávková telling Sme that the minister “will not respond”.

Meanwhile, lawyer and independent deputy Radoslav Procházka told Sme that the cartoon deforms the reality and it always must affect someone if it has to be functional.

“I know many lawyers who are using their profession to help people, but I consider this type of response of the bar association counterproductive,” Procházka has said.

Fico’s cartoon lawsuit

Another cartoon by Šútovec featuring a nervous man in a giant red tie being told by his physician that since x-ray show he has no spine his cervical spine problems are only “phantom pains” attracted wide fame. Prime Minister Robert Fico sued Sme over its publication in 2009 arguing that Shooty was making fun of his serious medical condition.

Four years on, Fico withdrew the lawsuit, in which he was demanding €33,000 in damages.

“There are two possibilities. One is that he is afraid of the ruling and the second is that he started liking me,” Šútovec said, as quoted by Sme on March 13.

The libel action was one of a long list of lawsuits which resulted in the country’s courts awarding over €300,000 in damages to public officials in civil cases brought against publishers and other media during 2009 alone.

“A cartoon published in such a way clearly benefits from serious impairment of my health, and makes fun of this impairment,” Fico argued in the lawsuit, as quoted by Sme.
At the time, Kostolný, responded in a commentary that the cartoon is in fact the freest of all journalistic genres and that “Fico either does not have a sense of humour or a sense for freedom of expression. Otherwise he would not have sued this daily over a cartoon”.

District and regional courts rejected Fico’s lawsuit, after which the prime minister filed an appeal with the Supreme Court. Fico’s decision to withdraw the suit comes after he had succeeded with the appeal to the Supreme Court, which returned the cartoon lawsuit to the regional court over a procedural fault, according to Sme. The Supreme Court did not comment on the legal merit of the case, according to Sme’s lawyer, Tomáš Kamenec.

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