Czech High Court upholds breakthrough verdict: Media must compensate victim of online racist discussion
The High Court in Prague upheld a breakthrough verdict on 13 October by a first-instance court that sentenced the publisher of Parlamentní listy, the OUR MEDIA company, to pay compensation of CZK 150 000 to plaintiff Jaroslav Suchý for the fact that it did not delete racist discussions conducted beneath three articles published online. JUDr. Milena Opatrná said the news server "did not respect the moral or physical integrity not only of the plaintiff, but of ethnic Roma generally" when, despite repeated calls to remove the racist, xenophobic posts from its online discussions calling for the physical destruction of Romani people and for violence, it left them online for three years.
Discussion posts assailed the essence of human dignity
Opatrá added in her decision, which has since taken effect, that such behavior is unacceptable in a democratic society because the posts assaulted the very essence of human dignity without attempting a discussion of facts, and they attacked and dishonored the good name of Jaroslav Suchý. The trial also heard how Suchý attempted to reconcile and settle out of court but that the publisher did not want to negotiate.
"I am actually satisfied with this result and very glad for it," Suchý told news server Romea.cz. He appealed the first-instance court's verdict in February.
Suchý insisted that he be awarded compensation in the amount of CZK 200 000 as he original sought. The High Court upheld the amount awarded, CZK 150 000, because it considers it to be proportionate.
Strasbourg court also upholds publisher's liability
The judge compared the dispute to a similar case brought against Estonia involving the Delfi AS web portal which was ruled on this summer by a Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights. Delfi AS left inappropriate posts online in a discussion thread for nine days before removing them, for which the Grand Chamber levied a fine equivalent to roughly CZK 50 000.
News server Parlamentní listy did not remove the racist commentaries from its discussions for three years despite being repeatedly called upon to do so. From the judgment of the European Court, moreover, it follows that EU Member States have the right to assume the operator of an internet server is liable for the commentaries posted in its online discussions that meet the criteria of so-called hate speech (i.e., hateful commentaries) as long as the servers themselves have not taken any 'corrective" steps, including without having to first be warned by the persons who might be harmed by such commentary.
In his closing arguments, Suchý also pointed out that the racist posts are still online in the discussions beneath the articles despite the operator being informed of them more than once. Defense attorney Simona Samuelson admitted as much in her closing argument: "The plaintiff has sent me 92 e-mails and 66 text messages, but that isn't appropriate to mention here."
Suchý claims verbal attacks are continuing
standpoint on the issue, which it published at the end of January.
In that piece, media analyst Petr Žantovský argued that internet discussions should not be assigned "meaning that they do not have" because people "who lack something in life" are those who get involved in them. He also argued that closing such discussions would be an attack on the freedom of those posting and of the publisher.
Suchý told news server Romea.cz that he will now attempt to seek asylum abroad because of the discrimination he is experiencing when trying to get a job because of his ethnicity and sexual orientation, as well as the death threats he has been receiving. "I am afraid because posts have turned up in these discussions threatening me with physical destruction," he said.
- EU-funded online Roma resources project draws criticism from academics and activists
- Czech Labor and Social Affairs Ministry publishes updated online maps of socially excluded localities
- RVN Editor Valery Novoselsky: Everything online becomes visible, even in the mahallas
- Slovakia: Romani women giving birth allege they are subjected to physical violence, racism in hospitals
- New comedy series on Czech public television to feature crude humor, racist remarks and vulgar language
- Slovakia: Four Romani girls and their mother die in house fire, police investigate racist comments about the news on their own Facebook page
- Czech prosecutor to review police decision not to charge politicians over remarks about Romani genocide site
- Czech ultra-right extremists plan to commemorate 10th anniversary of their attempted pogrom on Romani people
- Czech Constitutional Court receives complaint about election campaign, proposals for "fertilization" of "gypsies" recur in local media discussion
- Czech trial of racist assault on Prague tram: Eyewitnesses can still come forward, next hearing in January
- Commentary: Czech President Zeman's racism and Romani people
- Monika Mihaličková: Czech President should take a look in the mirror and give himself a slap - "gypsy" is an insulting term
- Czech court fines seven racists for approving of the murder of a Romani man, but one is appealing - for the publicity
- Hungarian Supreme Court says camerawoman who kicked asylum-seekers committed misdemeanor and can no longer be prosecuted
- Romani girl attempts suicide after bullying at her primary school in Czech town