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Slovak journalist wins case at ECHR

SLOVAK journalist Arpád Soltész has won a case at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg and will receive compensation worth more than €20,000 for damages.

SLOVAK journalist Arpád Soltész has won a case at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg and will receive compensation worth more than €20,000 for damages.

The case concerned an article published by Soltész in the newspaper Národná Obroda in June 2003 about the disappearance of a municipal office head and an entrepreneur, which occurred in May 1997, the press release of the ECHR reads.

The Slovak media identified the entrepreneur as Vladimír Bachleda, the owner of the company Tatravagónka and the head of the district office in Poprad.

In May 2001 Soltész obtained a declaration written by a former police officer who had been in charge of the search for the entrepreneur at the time of his disappearance. The declaration contained a number of statements which implied that a practicing lawyer and an entrepreneur had been involved in Bachleda’s disappearance.

In his article Soltész stated that the newspaper was in possession of the statement and outlined what it said about the involvement of the lawyer, whom the Hospodárske Noviny daily identified as Pavol Ovšonka.

Ovšonka then sued Soltész for libel and won the lawsuit, with the first-instance court ordering Soltész to pay Sk1 million to the lawyer. The respective regional court then lowered the sum to Sk100,000 (over €3,300) with court fees of Sk400,000 (over €13,000), which Soltész paid, according to the omediach.com media news portal. Soltész appealed the decision, but this was dismissed by the Slovak Constitutional Court in June 2008, the ECHR’s press release reads.

“Relying in particular on Article 10 (freedom of expression), Mr Soltész complained of the proceedings against him, and the finding of liability that had been made,” the ECHR wrote.
The international court ordered for Soltész to receive damages of €14,463 (pecuniary damage), €5,850 (non-pecuniary damage) and €3,935.10 (costs and expenses).

“I regard the ECHR decision as not only my personal victory but also the victory of the journalistic community,” Soltész told omediach.com.

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