The unprecedented amount of damages
In a recent judgement from 25th May 2013 no. 37 C 91/2012-90 the Court of the first instance in Prague ordered the tabloid newspaper to pay 900,000,- CZK (300,000£) in damages and to publish an apology.
The case concerns the article about an actor and a director of one of the Prague theatre. The newspaper run the story than the director leaves his position as a manager director and the theatre is in a debt of 6,000 000,- CZK. There were some employees cited that they did not received for some months. During the court proceedings the judge refused the argument that the theatre is in a debt because it is accounting loss that in the end of the year was fully balanced. The sum to pay in damages was exceptional – 900,000 CZK as in standard cases in respect of the defamation/libel or even libel of the company is max. of 300,000 CZK (100,000£).
The case was referred to an Appeal with the legal question whether the sum is legal in democratic state in respect of the common practice and predictability.
The use of the vulgarism of third party
In a recent judgement from 5th June 2013 no. 37 C 57/2012-82 the Court of the first instance in Prague ordered the tabloid newspaper to send a letter of apology to the barrister who represented the wife of the celebrity lover in a their divorce case.
The newspaper run for about week the first page story about the divorce of the current lover of the pop singer. The lover used very aggressive and gross words addressing to the lawyer of his wife. The newspaper used some of these words as an illustration of how he behaves and how rude and dangerous person he is. Some of the vulgarism were just written with the first letter and some in full like prostitute. It was a citation of the third party communication.
However, the barrister sued the press and the ex-husband. He was ordered to pay 250,000,- CZK (8,300£) and the newspaper for a use of the vulgarisms was ordered to send a letter of apology.
The legal question is whether the media are able to inform the public how the real person acts and whether the citation might cause any harm to the reputation when the context of the article is in favour of the person. The case was referred to an Appeal.
The charge of procuring and the use of the “pimp”
In February the serious newspaper filed a Constitutional complaint regarding the judgement of the Supreme Court no. 30 Cdo 1413/2012 – 111 regarding the use of the term “pimp” that refers to the not yet convicted person despite charged of procuring.
The case started in 2002 when there were 15 men arrested as an organized group engaged in procuring, led by some Ukraine businessman living in Czech, the alleged head of the pimps. They were put into detention and spent in jail for about 2,5 years. In 2005 the judge made a procedural mistake in prolonging the detention they had to be released immediately and except the alleged head of the pimp, all others flew to their countries of origin. Since 2005 there is no procedural possibilities to sentence them as from the criminal procedure all have to give evidence.
The newspaper run several stories about the process of the case and when is the court going to sentence them. In some of the headings they used the word pimp with the man charged with the crime of the procuring “the head of the pimp still free”.
He sued and the Court of the first instance in Prague dismissed the claim with the reasoning that he has to bare a higher critique. The High Court however ordered to pay damages and publish apology with the reasoning that the press has to respect the presumption of innocence. The same stated the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court did not consider the context of the article that always used the “alleged” word with the pimp, however it is only once that the word was used alone. The grounds for the Constitutional appeal are based on the freedom of expression argument that there is reasonable ground to suspect he is involved in this case and action as he spent two and half years in prison and the release was based on procedural consequences, not on the merit. The use of the word is legal journalistic abbreviation and in the last two years there were many cases at Court involving the words: gangster, punk, godfather, tunnel digger (corrupted person). The media used this expression with the names of politicians and other influential people, however none of them were charged. The courts stated that the critique is acceptable even if is rude and above limits if there are some grounds for it.