April 12, 2000
President Rudolph Schuster
Sdesanikova Ul. 1
Bratislava, SLOVAKIA 81104
VIA FAX: 011-4217-544-30-683
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is writing to express its dismay over recent defamation charges brought against Vladimir Mohorita, a journalist with the Slovak weekly Zmena.
On March 16, Mohorita received a registered letter from the Bratislava 2 Regional Court informing him that unspecified, undated criminal charges had been filed against him. Mohorita received another registered letter two days later, explaining that the charges had in fact been filed two weeks earlier. The letter added that, having reached a decision on March 7, the court was sentencing him to four months in prison under Article 102 of the Slovak Penal Code for "publicly defaming the country and its officials."
The charge was brought by Slovak Deputy Prime Minister Pal Czaky who alleged that Mohorita had defamed Slovakia by publishing an article, in the March 1999 edition of Zmena, that criticized the Slovak government's decision to allow NATO planes access to Slovak airspace during the crisis in Kosovo. On March 23, 2000, Mohorita filed an official appeal with the Bratislava 2 Regional Court. He has denied any wrongdoing and claims that the court misquoted his original article. His sentence has been suspended pending the appeal.
As a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to defending press freedom around the world, CPJ is alarmed that a Slovak court of law is seeking to imprison Mohorita for practicing his profession.
Moreover, the charge of defaming a country is illogical and outrageous. We urge you to ensure that Slovakia's press laws are revised immediately, in accordance with internationally-accepted norms.
CPJ is also very concerned that Mohorita was given neither adequate notification of the charges filed against him nor the opportunity to defend himself. We urge that his appeal be handled according to international due-process norms. We also urge Your Excellency to do everything in your power to ensure that all journalists in Slovakia, including Mohorita, may practice their profession without fear of criminal prosecution.
We thank you for your attention to these urgent matters and await your response.
Ann K. Cooper