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Calling a politician an idiot? No need to apologize

29. 4. 2008 14:30
Politicians are fair game for media, says court

Prague - The Supreme Court has further clarified what is appropriate when commenting on politicians.

The court has found the publisher of Plzeňský deník daily innocent. The publisher was sued by Václav Prokůpek, a former leader of the party called Cesta změny (roughly translates as The Road to Change).

Prokůpek wanted the daily to apologize for publishing a letter in which a party fellow calls him an "idiotically functioning leader" and "simple-minded fool" that "ruined everything possible".

Tense election campaign

According to the Supreme Court, politicians are less immune against this type of attack and need to get used to them - especially in the time of hot pre-election campaigns.

And it was precisely during a pre-election campaign Prokůpek was accused by Marie Bělešová in her e-mails that Plzeňský deník got hold of. Eventually, their content was published on the front page of the daily.

Initially, the High Court in Prague ruled twice that the daily has to apologize, explaining that vulgarity and rudeness of the expressions used in the article breached the unwritten rules of decent behavior.

Such words are offensive to everybody, be it a politician or not, and thus a law on protection of person is superior to the right for information, reasoned the High court.

However, the Supreme Court has annulled both High Court's rulings. The Senate of the Supreme Court presided by Pavel Pavlík agreed that everybody may ask for the protection of person, including politicians and other public service persons.

Far from unique

"However, measures being applied in their case are much softer, favoring the journalists. A more benevolent approach is adopted when examining whether it was acceptable to publish a debatable information," explained the judges.

According to them, expressions such as those written above are "capable of illustrating the character of relations in a political party that is competing for electoral support." The judges also informed that such expressions carry a negative statement also about the person that used them.

It is importnat to note that this case is far from unique in the Czech Republic.

In January this year, for example, the media published an e-mail written by head of the Green Party and Deputy Prime Minister Martin Bursík in which he called his party fellow Olga Zubová a "cow".

autor: Tomáš Fránek | 29. 4. 2008 14:30

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