Berlin, February 10, 2020 — Slovak authorities should immediately drop criminal defamation and slander charges against journalist Michal Havran and stop using the country’s criminal code to prosecute journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On February 5, the local daily Sme reported that state prosecutors in Košice, eastern Slovakia, had filed defamation and slander charges against Havran, a theologian and columnist at the newspaper. The report did not specify when the charges were originally filed, but said they were related to an article Havran wrote criticizing a Slovak catholic priest, which was published on June 27, 2018.
If convicted of slander and “defamation of nation, race, and conviction,” Havran could face a prison sentence of up to three years, according to the Slovak criminal code.
“Slovak authorities must immediately drop criminal defamation and slander charges against columnist Michal Havran, and allow him to write freely,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Slovakia should have scrapped criminal defamation from its books long ago – such laws have no place in a democracy.”
The 2018 article criticized the priest’s public statements about homosexuals, his ties to the far-right People’s Party — Our Slovakia, and his promotion of a law banning abortion.
According to the Sme report, police investigators working for the Košice branch of the National Criminal Agency accused Havran of suppressing freedom of religion and said the article “defames the expressions of their faith.”
CPJ emailed the spokesperson of prosecutor’s office in Košice for comment but did not immediately receive any reply.