The Personal rights are protected not only by the Private law but the Criminal law in the Czech republic plays an important role. The first part of the post regarding the Criminal law role in the media law area considered the duties of the media in respect of the reported information on Criminal Proceedings, Offenders, Accomplice, Participant and victims of a Crime. The second part is about the criminal libel and its practical use.
The criminal libel is a crime under the § 184 of the Czech Criminal Code, Act No. 40/2009 Coll. The Code states that a person who communicates false information which can seriously endanger another person’s respect among his fellow citizens, in particular damaging his position in employment, and relations with his family, or causing him some other serious detriment, shall be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of up to one year. An offender shall be punished by a term of imprisonment of up to two years or prohibition of a specific activity, if he commits this act by using the press, film, radio or TV broadcasting, public computer network or some other similarly effective method.
According to the legal practice, a “crime” whose degree of danger to society is negligible shall not be considered a crime, even though it may otherwise have the features of a crime. In order for an act to be considered a crime, its commission requires intentional culpability, unless this Code expressly provides that an act committed through negligence shall be considered a crime.
There are up to 20 criminal notifications per year when people bring the notification of the defamation to the police body or state prosecutor. The police state body is required to commence the criminal proceedings. However, majority of the cases end with the conclusion that the police stops the proceeding for purposelessness as the case might be resolved in civil procedure. The criminal libel shall be used only in severe cases when the defamation posed the danger to the society and protected interest of the harmed person. Nevertheless, there are still notifications made just for the purpose to discourage journalists or active people to inform about the public interest and the existence of the sanction might be detrimental. This is the major argument for the supporters of abolishing this type of the crime. The proponents argue that this crime presents a full protection of personal rights and in cases where the allegation was of criminal nature the sanction under criminal law is only adequate. It also serves as a tool when the injured person does not know the offender, it means the person is not able to bring the civil claim.
Finally, what the so far case law shows, none of the convicted offender was imprisoned. The average length of the waived punishment is four months.
The existence of this crime is questionable and disputable, however as the civil proceeding plays an important role and the criminal law only an additional – subsidiary role and in addition with the so far case law, the existence is no longer required.
The Constitutional Court, n. II.ÚS 2042/12 from 18.10.2012: the reporter of the national press wrote an article about the murder case in which the victim had a consenting sex with the murderer. In fact there was not a consent with the murderer. The husband brought a criminal proceeding and the reporter was convicted to the 80.000 CZK fine and 3 months waived imprisonment.
The Constitutional Court, n. I. ÚS 1146/11 from 14.7.2011: the applicant was convicted for 6 months waived imprisonment for sending the email to the director of the hospital that accuses his colleague of mistreatment of the patients on the psychiatry department.
The Constitutional Court, n. III.ÚS 132/11 from 10.2.2011: the applicant was convicted for 6 months waived imprisonment for sending the email to the director of the high school accusing on of the teacher for abusing her daughter on the basic school (when daughter was under 15). In fact this allegation was falsely made because daughter told the applicant that she has a lesbian relationship with her teacher (but at that date at the age of 18).
The Supreme Court, n. 4 Tz 25/2006 from 15.03.2006: the insulting and highly defamatory letter sent to the press agent of the Court and judge addressing only to this person cannot be classified as a crime as it was not widely disseminated as i tis a prerequisite of the criminal act of the criminal libel
The Supreme Court, n. 7 Tdo 805/2004 from 28.07.2004: the criminal notification sent to the police containing allegation that the person (judge) is communistic agent that ruins the basic rights of the father to have a family life after divorce cannot be classified as a crime as i tis not widely disseminated and this allegation was a matter of the criminal notification. This argument was used in cases of the Czech celebrities seeking the redress under the criminal law. The Court refused these applications as the police body has a discretion.
The Constitutional Court, n. III.ÚS 398/11 from 7.4.2011: the applicant claims that she made a criminal notification of the criminal libel that person X published on her own website that applicant (the dog asylum house) treat dogs in unacceptable conditions and the police body set the notification aside and terminated the criminal investigation. The Constitutional Court states that the criminal notification is not a basic right and is up the police body discretion to decide whether to continue the investigation or to terminate it.
Another category of the cases are the situation when fathers bring the criminal notification for the criminal libel when mother during the family procedure (decision of the right to access child and alimony) alleges that the father abused the children.
The actual pending case is highly discussed and widely critised among the public: the director of the high school brought several criminal notification on students who protected against the measures which the director did. They claimed on the Facebook and in the media that the practice of this director resemble the communist regime. The students even after a year after this criminal notification and pending criminal investigation are investigated.