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Czech Case law, Czech law, Czech legal news

Violation of presumption of innocence in case of “Nurse death” . Czech tabloid media found guilty of defamation and media prosecution

„Nurse death“ was the nickname Věra Marešová was given by media after allegedly killing 5 to 6 patients. Věra Marešová was a nurse in her fifties at the hospital in Rumburk. Between 2010 and 2014 she was accused of killing several patients, five elderly women and one old man by injecting deadly amounts of potassium that caused heart failure. Reportedly, she murdered the patients because she hated them and wanted to make her work easier. The nurse was arrested and in total, she spent 14 months in custody. Although in the end, the court decided that the nurse isn’t guilty and charges against her were dismissed, this case was all over Czech media and even in some foreign magazines.

A large majority of the press were tabloid magazines, that means, they were nor very serious sources of information and often exaggerated the facts or lied. It got even to the level of breaking one of the most important principles of justice – the presumption of innocence. This legal principle means, that the accused person must be considered innocent until proven guilty. The no. 30 Cdo 1413/2012 judgment of the Supreme Court of Czech Republic says that, until the accused is not finally convicted, media cannot not call them guilty or label them as criminals, which the majority does not respect. This principle was broken in magazines like Blesk, Aha all owned by the publisher Czech News Center, but also by foreign media. Some of the headlines said: Euthanasia? No, murder.” or„Why did „Nurse death“ kill? She hated her patients! “, “She killed patients to ease the work”. There were tens of titles like this.

Of course, this had a major impact on her reputation and personal life and therefore is considered defamation in Czech law. Because of the nickname she was attributed, the nurse experienced bullying and threats, she lost her job and had to move from Rumburk. Now, the blame is on the media. Mrs. Marešová decided to defend herself and requires compensation 5 million CZK from the country, she also sued Czech media like MAFRA, Economia and Vltava Labe Media and TV stations NOVA and Prima. This case regarding defamation was a one of a kind and never seen before in the Czech Republic.

All in all, approximately 42 articles broke the presumption of innocence regarding the case of Mrs. Marešová by Czech News Center. The publisher published overall 266, in 111 cases they named her “Nurse Death”

She was awarded 840.000 CZK and other claims against Czech media publishers are with the courts. The judge concluded the media abbreviation is allowed but this one definitely is attributed with the guilt. The same abbreviation and information were provided also by international media, including British tabloid.

Eva Ondřejová, Alice Lepesantová

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About ondrejovae

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

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Link to the legal office of the owner of this blog:  www.ondrejova.cz

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