A 18-month imprisonment with three-year condition and ban from writing for the same period is the punishment for journalist Lukáš Milan, who wrote about murky business practices in Košice, involving a former top representative of the Smer party, Pavol Paška.
The story entitled “Košice’s Octopus” was published by the Plus 7 Dní weekly more than two years ago. Paška, who once served as speaker of parliament but left after the scandal with the purchase of an overpriced CT device for Piešťany hospital, filed a criminal complaint for libel.
The police prosecuted Milan, who left Plus 7 Dní, while the prosecutor submitted a lawsuit. The judge has now accepted the suit, the Medialne.sk website reported.
However, Milan disagrees with the ruling and appealed it. If the appellate court confirms the original ruling, it will be one of the few cases in which a journalist i sentenced in Slovakia.
What was the story about?
According to the lawsuit, Milan stated some untrue facts in his story, which harmed Paška’s business and his reputation in society.
The prosecutor, for example, states that the part in which the journalist cites an unnamed businessman active in transport, claiming that Paška had been asking for bribe for distributing blood plasma to medical facilities, is untrue, as reported by Medialne.sk.
Lawyer Tomáš Langer, who is dealing with the media disputes, claims that if journalists inform the public about something in good faith in their veracity and checks the facts, they should not be punished for their work.
“It is the work of the police and then the court to check whether this was the case,” Langer told Medialne.sk.
Milan refused to reveal the name of the entrepreneur cited in the story to investigators. The entrepreneur told Medialne.sk that he does not want to testify on his statements concerning Paška, since he is afraid he would lose the orders and go bankrupt. He insists on remaining anonymous.
The law stipulates that journalists must not reveal their sources if they asked.