Slovak Fascists want to change laws about online media to prevent libel
Slovak news server Glob.sk reports that MPs from the "People's Party Our Slovakia" (Lidová strana Naše Slovensko - ĽSNS) believe the country's legal protections for persons whose "good name, honor and dignity" have been trampled on in public through online media should be improved, and they will be proposing legislation to that effect. ĽSNS MPs Marian Kotleba, Ján Kecskés, Rastislav Schlosár and Stanislav Drobný will be submitting an amendment to the law on the press when the National Assembly convenes in September.
The bill's aim is to expand the scope of the current legislation to include online news outlets. ĽSNS is a Fascist party led by Kotleba that believes in the ethos of the wartime Slovak State and its representatives.
"The global trend in electronic services is expanding rapidly and is practically unstoppable. One of the most intensively developing services for the public is news reporting through the Internet," the ĽSNS legislators note.
"While interest in the standard print versions of daily newspapers is declining, the readership of Internet portals providing news is growing. Internet portals, as part of their competition, are rushing not just to provide necessary information to their readers at high speeds, but as part of achieving more readership they are not hesitating to use tabloid techniques, to openly lie, or to write half-truths or unverified information," they describe.
Kotleba and his followers observe that online articles and news reports, thanks to support from online social media, are reaching hundreds of thousands of readers in some cases. "It is, therefore, incorrect and unfair for the Internet media, which has the same if not a greater impact as offline media, to have the privilege, compared to other media outlets, of publishing and distributing, without penalty, distorted or misleading information that violates the right of both natural and legal persons to preservation of their good name, honor and dignity," the MPs explain.
The ĽSNS legislators went on to say that clearing one's good name or the protection of one's personality in such cases depends on the good will and the morals of those who operate Internet media, which in most cases means such rights cannot be enjoyed in practice. The Slovak Culture Ministry has also been working on its own amendment to the law on the media.
Pavel Čorba of the Culture Ministry's office said their staff has been involved with the issue. "One subject that is a topic of discussion is including online media under the legislation not just so that protection of sources will be guaranteed, but also so that in the digital environment, the basic principle of liability for content would apply," he said.
Among the anticipated changes meant to be introduced by the Culture Ministry's bill are, especially, the definition of who is a journalist and generally greater protections for journalists, for example, against unfounded criminal prosecution for defamation or through civil lawsuits associated with the performance of such work.
Before the Culture Ministry introduced its amendment to the law on the press, MPs from the Smer-SD party, Dušan Jarjabek and Miroslav Číž, submitted their own such bill at the beginning of this year. Those legislators want to reinstate the right of reply and fines against media outlets as they were legislated in 2008.
The head of the SNS party, Andrej Danko, who is the speaker of the National Assembly, has announced that he also wants to expand such an amendment to the law on the press to include the right of reply to analyses and commentaries. The 2008 legislation was criticized not just by the opposition parties at the time, but also by international institutions and professional organizations, and the Smer-SD bill is being similarly subjected to criticism by both domestic and international commentators.
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