Although Slovakia has definitely improved over the past year when it comes to freedom of the press, certain people with an influence can still harass and scare journalists, as was discovered once again by popular daily SME.
SME reporter Zuzana Petkova is being charged by the police after a complaint from controversial head of the Supreme Court, Stefan Harabin, who pressed charges merely because the journalist published the amount of his wife’s salary while she was working at the Ministry of Justice, which was controlled by her spouse at the time.
Petkova is being charged for unauthorised use of personal data of Harabin’s wife, Gabriela Harabinova, but she was only using information that the Ministry of Justice readily provided to her. The daily’s lawyer, Tomas Kamenec, is adamant that the Data Protection Act has not been violated, saying that the data “was published in the public interest”.
In a video response on SME’s internet site, Editor-in-chief Matus Kostolny explained that in a fair and democratic society a journalist cannot be punished just for doing their job. In any case, it should be the respective employee at the Ministry who released the details who should be charged.
Harabin subsequently issued a statement saying the charges against the journalist were absurd, and that liability falls to the Ministry of Justice. Justice minister Lucia Zitnanska says the whole affair has been absurd from the outset. The International Press Institute has called on Zitnanska and interior minister Daniel Lipsic to investigate the procedure employed by the police in the matter.
SME’s lawyer also noted how Harabin had issued an official statement from the Supreme Court’s press department, even though the issue is a private affair. The case will most likely evaporate into thin air with nobody being held accountable for the alleged breach, or for the botched procedure of the police.