Former PM Babis Ordered To Apologise For Social Media Attacks On Journalist
Opposition leader and ex-PM Andrej Babis (ANO) has been ordered by the Prague Regional Court to apologise to investigative journalist and editor-in-chief of the Investigace.cz server, Pavla Holcova, for an abusive Facebook post he wrote about her. The court made the ruling in May, and the news was announced yesterday by Marie Wichterlova from the Investigace.cz server.
The court ordered Babis to publish an apology on social media within three days of the ruling taking effect.
Investigace.cz reported that last April, Babis posted a collage on his profile with a photo of Holcova accompanied by the text: “If Babis dares to run for president, it has long been agreed with Mr Soros that we will again sling some untrue mud at him a week before the election. It worked last time. Mr Soros was very satisfied.”
According to Wichterlova, the article was a response to the “Pandora Papers” case, in which the server published the findings of an international journalistic investigation into the suspicious dealings of many politicians and other public figures involving offshore companies. These records showed that Babis had not disclosed in his property statements that he owned shares in offshore companies.
Babis’s comments also refer to George Soros, a Hungarian-American financier who is frequently a target of attack for populists and online conspiracy theorist groups due to his funding of liberal and progressive causes in Eastern Europe.
Last summer, the Cernosice municipal office, under whose jurisdiction lies Babis’s home in Pruhonice near Prague, shelved a complaint related to this case.
“I am convinced that as journalists who meet ethical standards we should stand up to politicians who too often paint targets on our backs and encourage their fans to bully us,” Holcova said in a press release, commenting on the court ruling.
First, the Prague-West District Court dealt with the case. Last December, it ruled that Babis must delete the post from social media, but both Holcova and Babis appealed the verdict. In May, the regional appeals court confirmed that Babis must remove the post, and also ordered him to apologise.
“A certain degree of professional care for the content and form of the posts he publishes on his website can be required of the defendant, as an experienced politician and a person who has otherwise been in public life for a long time,” said the regional court in the decision, which Wichterlova sent to CTK. “In this context, he should be aware of the importance of the journalistic profession to public life as one of the elements guaranteeing the functioning of a democratic rule of law, and of the need for increased protection of journalists against unjustified interference in their activities.”
Wichterlova described the concluded case as one that would define the future responsibility of politicians for defamatory posts and the subsequent public debate on their social media.