OSCE- Regular Report to
the Permanent Council
On 2 May I wrote to Minister of Foreign Affairs Miroslav Lajčák and issued a publicstatement expressing concern over recent cases where the media have come under significant pressure by members of the Slovak judiciary.
Several current and former members of the judiciary, including the acting General Prosecutor and four Supreme Court judges, are seeking damages totaling €940,000 from the dailynewspaper
Nový Čas and its publisher for photos and videos published in June 2011. Thesematerials depict a party at which the plaintiffs were allegedly mimicking the events in a massmurder that happened in 2010 in Bratislava. The plaintiffs say that the photos were falsifiedand that there was no connection between the photos and the mass murder.In another case, Judge Michal Truban sued the daily newspaper Sme, claiming that an article published by the newspaper in September 2012 had impugned his honour and infringed uponhis privacy by alleging the judge accepted a free hunting trip in 2008. Truban asked for threeseparate apologies from Sme and €150,000 in damages.The court ordered the newspaper to apologize to the judge in capital letters on its front pagefor three consecutive days in late April. The court has not yet ruled on the damage award.I warned that large damage awards can lead to an outlet’s bankruptcy and may induce self-censorship, thus diminishing the existing media pluralism in Slovakia. I emphasized that public officials need to endure a higher threshold of criticism by the public, includingmembers of the media. I also noted that that one of the indispensable roles of the media indemocracies is to hold a mirror to society and inform people of all issues of publicimportance.On 24 May I received a reply from Foreign Minister Lajčák sharing the view that publicofficials need to endure a higher threshold of criticism by the public and that damage awardsshould be proportional to the injury suffered.The Foreign Minister also noted the close linkage between freedom of expression and protection of personal integrity, as also confirmed by the case law of the European Court of Human Rights under Article 10 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights andFundamental Freedoms. He further noted that the issue of damage caps in civil defamationcases is one of the topics discussed at relevant expert fora.I hope that the discussions that have already started in Slovakia about the need todecriminalize libel and defamation will soon lead to this very important reform, and that adamage cap will be set in civil defamation cases.