Czech politician not to be compensated over nickname, courts say reasonable use of it is allowed
Czech MP Tomio Okamura ("Freedom and Direct Democracy" - SPD), a vice-chair of the Czech lower house, has failed with his legal appeal over a dispute caused by the use of a nickname for him, "Pitomio" [loose translation - "Tomidiot"] by the Czech weekly magazine Reflex. Okamura appealed a previous court ruling that instructed the magazine to apologize to the politician for using the nickname in two articles in 2013 but did not award him compensation, and the judiciary has at a more general level admitted that it is possible to use the "Pitomio" nickname as part of justified criticism of the public figure.
In March the Czech Supreme Court made its decision and returned the file at the end of April to the first-instance court, judges from which have not yet made the full wording of their reasoning public. Markéta Puci, spokesperson for the Municipal Court in Prague, the first-instance venue for the case, told the Czech News Agency that judges refused to rule on part of the appeal and agreed to rule on the rest in order to reject it.
Both the Municipal Court and the High Court in Prague have emphasized that expressive, unflattering expressions should not be used by the media against politicians tendentiously. Nevertheless, if such expressions are part of a legitimate criticism of specific attitudes or remarks, their use is possible.
In the case of Okamura, the judiciary took into account the politician's own media presentations, noting that he makes provocative appearances, promotes political incorrectness, enjoys choosing strong language himself, and does his best to be controversial. "This term is expressively unflattering, but it is not a priori vulgar, and de facto support for it can be found in the article's content, which thoroughly describes why certain ideas of the plaintiff's are potentially socially dangerous and why, therefore, it is possible to consider them 'balderdash', using a certain dose of journalistic shorthand," news server Lidovky.cz previously quoted the appeals court decision as saying.
The controversial articles were published by Reflex in 2013. In October of that year Okamura became an MP for the "Dawn of Direct Democracy" party.
Okamura is currently an MP and chair of the SPD movement. The nickname "Pitomio" has been used to refer to him from time to time over the last few months by other media than Reflex, such as the Euro periodical or the Lidové noviny newspaper.
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- † 17. 5. 1998, Orlová, Czech Republic: Milan Lacko