GENERAL Prosecutor Jaromír Čižnár threw out the police’s charge against journalist Dušan Karolyi with libel for his story about a police officer abusing his powers after he went through documents related to the case, the SITA newswire reported on October 1.
The case met with wide criticism from OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović, media freedom watchdog International Press Institute (IPI) and several Slovak public figures.
According to Mijatović the criminal libel charges filed against Karolyi, which could have resulted in a five-year prison sentence, are worrying and pose a threat to free media.
“Applying criminal charges for libel stifles public debate and can be used to protect public officials from criticism,” Mijatović said in press release on September 8. “In effect, it poses a threat to free media.”
In August 2013, Karolyi wrote about the case of former employee of the Office for Fight against Organised Crime (ÚBOK) Jaroslav Dujava, who was suspected of abusing his powers as a public official. According to Karolyi, Dujava allegedly broke the law when using frivolous and excessive force to detain Alexander Ducár, one of the owners of Kompit, a company possessing lucrative real estate in Prešov.
Dujava filed a criminal complaint against an unknown offender for libel demanding compensation in the sum exceeding €33,000. He did that even though the journalist did not use his full name, but an abbreviation: “Jaroslav D.”, according to Medialne.sk, a media news site.
Karolyi filed a complaint against his prosecution calling it “absurd”.
“The person, who, according to the plaintiff, repeatedly abused his powers as a public official, is innocent because of the court’s procrastination,” Karolyi said, as quoted by Medialne.sk. “The person who informed the public about it is being prosecuted.”
The IPI sees those causes as trying to scare journalists and media so they would rather avoid reporting about such failures and expressed its full support to Karolyi.
“IPI Slovakia again points to repetitive action of Slovak judiciary and law-enforcement bodies against media and journalists,” Pavol Múdry of IPI told the press, “meaning that if someone points to failures by the police or judicial bodies or persons working for the police, courts or prosecutor’s office, they accuse the media and the journalists who uncover those failures.”
6. Oct 2014 at 0:00 | Compiled by Spectator staff