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The Czech President Miloš Zeman to be sued for defamation? Head of the state has been sued indirectly so far, through the state liability.

Ferdinand Peroutka granddaughter has filed a defamation claim against the Czech state because of President Miloš Zeman’s public defamatory statements about the Czech most famous journalist (from 1st Republic era, friend of our first President Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, see more) who was during the WWII held in concentration camp and in 1951 emigrated due to communistic regime. The president claims that Peroutka wrote an article entitled Hitler is a gentleman and admired Hitler, however he did not produce such an article. According to the secretary of the head of state “he did read it”. Also Ferdinand Peroutka Society denied the existence of such an article and says a quote attributed to the journalist by Mr. Zeman came from somebody else.

Under Art. 54 (3) and 65 (3) of the constitution, the president may not be held liable for any alleged criminal acts while executing the duties of office. Such prosecution may not occur either while the president is in office or at any time thereafter. Art 65 (1) prevents trial or detention for prosecution of a criminal offense or tort while in office, except high treason. So, from the Constitution, there is no obstacle to sue directly the President of the Czech Republic for defamation (defamation of deceased) as he is not exempt from the civil liability.

The Civil Code, Act. No. 89/12 Coll. allows post-mortem protection of personal rights (reputation, honor, dignity). After the death of the individual, the right to protection of his or her personhood may be asserted the close relatives (not only spouse (or registered partner), children, parents, but also grandchildren, brother, sister, brother-in-law, and other close person).

Peroutka’s granddaughter Terezie Kaslova does not sue Miloš Zeman directly, but the State because according to her he pronounced these statements as an official representative of the Czech Republic, at a conference on the 70 years anniversary of the liberation of Oswiecim. However, in my opinion, the causal nexus of the State liability and the damage would be more problematic to prove. It was directly the President who stated these accusations, he is not exempt from liability and he personality has to take the responsibility because also so far he himself has defended in person and provided comments to the Peroutka Society’  declarations and granddaughter’s demand of apology. His full speech is available here.

However, the story continues as the secretary of the head of state is continuously issuing the articles written by Peroutka on the “Castle “ Head of state website. Last article that according to Castle should prove his admiration of Hitler, the article from April 1939 is called Dynamic Life and was written on the occasion of 50th birthday of Hitler. It was this article that led Gestapo to arrest Ferdinand Peroutka and sent him to the concentration camp. According to several historians and expert’s statement in past days to this article, even Gestapo understood the double entendre, however the secretary of the state was mistaken by this double meaning. As the search for the confession article continues, the Czech citizens have opportunity to read at least more texts written by our biggest journalist.


About ondrejovae

Czech Attorney/Barrister located in Prague with specialization in media law and protection of personal rights


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