Czech political satire is a long standing tradition in the country resulting from the history as the nation was under the Austria-Hungary empire first, than occupied by Nazi Germany and Communism. The caricature and satire is a form of the expression of criticism that builds a significant part of the press and public creativity. The society is used to the exaggeration, non-selective criticism that provokes. There are only few cases that appeared before court that were successful.
None of these well know politician even considered taking the legal action. The criticism expressed in the form of caricature or in this case rather cartoon is based on the real base resulting from the behavior of the concerned person or even the perception of their behavior by the society.
1) Former MP and long-standing Prague mayor connected with the major corruption scandals, who enjoys the money publicly – the caption states “when does he have enough”
2) Former Minister of Finance who enjoys drinking an alcohol – the captions refers to his “water”
3) Former president Václav Klaus with the caption evoking old monarchy ages
The former president Václav Klaus is a subject of the public criticism and cartoon due to his scandal when stealing the pen in Chile. Therefore the official stamps modified could be seen with the captions – ATTENTION – HE STEALS.
Real base for this statement or the perception of the situation see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uToMvq3yw2A
Even more attention draws the Czech current president Miloš Zeman who is a controversial figure on the political scene that is highly criticized for his alcohol scandals and rude behavior that is not representing the state in a proper way and finally who despite the parliamentary system in the Czech Republic he assumes more rights than the president has. This was a matter for issuing the front page with cartoon depicting him as a dictator and further two are reactions on his scandal during the state ceremonial crown jewel where the society alleges he was drunk. The opinion might be created by viewing the video in the link below. The president commented on his behavior that he was ill – “he had virus”. This expression domesticated and became a subject of several cartoon, mainly with connection with his most favorite Czech liqueur Becherovka that was rename by Virus.
See on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OO2l25rK750
Case before Court: The Supreme Court, n. 30 Cdo 517/2011 from 26.4.2012, www.nsoud.cz (only available in Czech language)
The politician – former Minister of Public Health (currently released from the one- year detention in a criminal trial concerning his charge of bribery) was depicted on the front page of the weekly Magazine REFLEX as assembling Adolf Hitler on 5.2.2009. All Courts and the Supreme Court of the Czech Republic dismissed his personal protection claim based on defamation, privacy, name, honour and dignity infringement as baseless.
The Plaintiff gave a n interview to the national press on 25.1.2009 and was giving his advices how to increase the GDP and economy while he said we should follow an successful example of Adolf Hitler, mainly his armament. The caricature has therefore real foundations in the Plaintiff’s behavior and acting.
Further the Supreme Court stated that the form of the caricature is adequate and was not excessive, despite being hard-bitten but what in fact is the element of the caricature. None of the reader could think that the Plaintiff is mass murder and his dignity was not diminished. The aim of the caricature is to point out the undesirable behavior of the Plaintiff to the public.
As follows from the Czech Constitutional Court case law (IV. ÚS 146/04) the freedom of speech and freedom of information covers the caricature as a means of the opinion expression. The freedom of speech includes also information that shock or alarm what the plurality and democracy requires. The right to a freedom of speech and information covered by the Art. 17 of the Czech Charter of fundamental rights and freedoms and Art. 10 of the European Convention on Human rights has to be balanced with the concurred right of the person in subject. According to the Constitutional Court (IV. ÚS 146/04) the caricature is a means for evaluation and assessing of the behavior, characteristic of the subject and by means of the irony and exaggeration highlight the person. It is typical for the caricature to exaggerate, hyperbolize and be ironical. The irony itself has to be based on the real base, at least minimal. Even one has to be benevolent to the hard expression it can not overstep the boundaries of the intended criticism. In this case the criticism was proportionate.
Comics – story of ET Green Raul commenting on the political situation in the Czech republic:
The extract above was a one episode from the comics and the hero was the former Minister and his wife. He was the youngest minister in the Czech political history and he was disclosing his private life, mainly his sexual successes in media very often. Therefore the Magazine made a comics that showed him as sexual symbol and how he found his wife. The pictures were explicit. The case appeared before the Constitutional Court and the Court in decision II.ÚS 468/03 from 25.11.2010 confirmed the view of the lower courts that in this case the caricature and criticism overstepped the boundaries of the society standards of what is acceptable and because it showed the explicit sexual act and organs it resembled the porn magazine rather than the political one. Therefore it could have infringed the dignity of the concerned person.
This case concerned former prime minister who in the political crisis before the election divorced and remarried a considerable younger woman for the purpose to increase the popularity announced the pregnancy of the wife and made public statements about personal details. The magazine published the cover photo as a parody on RollingStone with John Lennon and Yoko Ono cover with the plaintiffs and also inside the magazine published the comics depicting how did the night of the conception look like. It was depicting how his wife was waiting for him as he comes back home from the political meetings and what made him excited (the thought of one of his agile minister) and final picture showed them both happy lying in the bed (naked but nothing expect the fat belly was shown) with caption “that was the day when their child came into being”. The Courts and the Supreme Court dismissed the claim as unreasonable as in this case the boundaries were not overstepped. The Plaintiffs objected the infringement of the privacy and their intimate life, however the courts concluded that the story was made in absurd way and nobody could think that the comics was describing the actual night. Moreover it was appropriate the situation and the drawings were not explicit of the sexual nature. The sexual act between the plaintiffs was only indicated by the black picture with the interjections. 30 Cdo 154/2011.
The actual case concerns the front page of the weekly Magazine Reflex depicting the current MP, in the time of the issue he was a political candidate and an unsuccessful presidential candidate. The point of the depiction and the story is a controversial nature of the political program of this Plaintiff. He is commenting on all the political and non-political society issues and comes with new ideas and recipe on how to deal with Romany community in the Czech, with the economic issues and on the same time he is promoting his Japanese shop and his new cook book and book how to govern the state. Therefore the picture is a combination of the elements how the reporters see him. The other problematic view is the used name that is not his real name – Okamura, but the Plaintiff alleges it is a corruption of the words meaning “idiot” and the real name. The date for the court hearing is not announced yet.
In the end the national press published on New Year’s Eve front page a cartoon with the president with his wish to all citizens less virus and less rolled down carpets (catchword for his fallings). It shows that the political satire is very vivid and active.
The protection of personal rights are stated in the Civil Code. Article 11 of which states, “An individual shall have the right to protection of his or her personhood, in particular of his or her life and health, civic honour and human dignity as well as of its privacy, name and expressions of personal nature.” It is followed by Article 12, which describes specific cases in respect of the records with depiction of the person. The New Civil Code Act. No. 89/2012 Coll. in force since 1.1.2014 modifies the Art. 11 into art. 81 but the principles remain the same.
For remedies see the post: https://czechdefamationlaw.wordpress.com/2013/03/31/remedies/
and related posts regarding the procedure and template.
Other connected information in English: