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Bonanno ruling favours daily

THE DISTRICT Court in Bratislava dismissed the charges of the Supreme Court Judge Štefan Michálik against Ringier Axel Springer, the publisher of the Nový Čas tabloid daily, the SITA newswire reported on January 19. OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović said that the decision contributes to media freedom.

THE DISTRICT Court in Bratislava dismissed the charges of the Supreme Court Judge Štefan Michálik against Ringier Axel Springer, the publisher of the Nový Čas tabloid daily, the SITA newswire reported on January 19. OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović said that the decision contributes to media freedom.

The lawsuit is part of series of charges against Ringier Axel Springer for the publishing of stories and photos from a private meeting of prominent lawyers and judges, dubbed the Judiciary Oscars Association, in the Bonanno bar in Rajecké Teplice in autumn 2010. A total of €1.8 million in damages is being sought in the lawsuits.

The daily reported in June 2012 that retired lawyer Tibor Péchy came to the meeting with a replica of a machine gun and a pair of blue ear defenders. In late August 2010, Ľubomír Harman, a 48-year-old man wearing blue ear defenders and armed with an assault rifle, shot dead seven people before killing himself in Devínska Nová Ves.

Members of the Judiciary Oscars Association are objecting to associations made between the images from the meeting at the Bonanno bar and the mass murderer, arguing that there was no mimicking of Harman.

The judge deciding in Michálik’s case stated that judge Michálik is a person of public interest.

“[He] must withstand a greater degree of criticism,” the judge said, as quoted by SITA. “Privacy is somewhat limited [in such cases].”

The Bratislava District Court delivered its first verdict on June 16, 2014 ruling that Nový Čas must apologise to Supreme Court Judge Daniel Hudák for harming his personal integrity. The court, however, has not yet decided on the damages he should receive. Hudák demanded €100,000, but the sum is to be decided only once the regional court upholds the verdict.

Mijatović criticised that decision as restricting reporting on matters of public interest.

“This ruling may have a chilling effect on media freedom as it restricts reporting on matters of public interest,” Mijatović said in OSCE press release in June, 2014. “International standards call for public officials to endure a higher threshold of criticism by the public, including members of the media.”

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