Call for judge to be dismissed over the case against “CAT plus”

The National Association of Television and Radio Broadcasters (NAM) have called on the High Council of Justice, the High Qualifying Commission of the Council of Judges, the Ministry of Justice and the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Justice Issues to dismiss Judge of the Slovyansk City-District Court of the Donetsk Region, Tetyana Khaustova. NAM cite infringement of her oath as grounds for dismissal.
On 26 December 2007 Judge Tetyana Khaustova passed a ruling ordering the TV and radio company “CAT plus” and the journalist Nataliya Popova to pay 80 thousand UAH in damages to the Mayor of Slovyansk Valentin Rybachuk.

The damages were awarded over a journalist report in which Ms Popova, against the background of a damaged memorial “Avenue of Glory” on 9 May 2007 [Victory Day) said the following on “CAT plus”:
“I’d like to make a call to conscience. Since 9 May is, after all, a day to celebrate conscience. To the conscience of our deputies, our city mayor – where is it? You can say today that there isn’t enough money, budgetary items to reinstate these stands. Yet when in the morning we go past the executive committee and look at your jeep, Valentin Leonidovych, which you rented to our city and for which the city pays money, it ‘s impossible to believe that the money for the rent of that jeep would not be enough to restore “Avenue of Glory”. Today there is a fashionable word in politics “shame”. I would like to say it to you. Shame on you, Mayor, shame on the deputies, shame on the head of the city departments who did not find the money on this day to restore the “Avenue”. Shame for your attitude to the memory of the heroes of our city, to the residents of our city.”

In his suit Valentin Rybachuk demanded a retraction of the information broadcast and compensation for moral damages of 100 thousand UAH. He asserted that the information was inaccurate because, in the first place, “Avenue of Glory” had been repaired, and secondly, because his own car Lexus GX 470 had not been rented to the city, but given for free use on the basis of a loan agreement, and that the city had thus not spent any money on its rent.

NAM lawyers pointed out that the journalist had had all grounds for accusing the Mayor of corrupt actions since the cost of the Lexus car handed over for use to the Slovyansk City Council was ten times higher than the maximum expense on acquiring and renting cars for the heads of bodies of local self-government, approved by the Cabinet of Ministers Resolution No. 332 from 4 April 2001. However the judge found the information to have been inaccurate and ordered the respondents to pay the Mayor 80 thousand UAH, seven times the pay of an average resident of Slovyansk in moral compensation.

The Donetsk Regional Court of Appeal on 18 March 2008 overturned the ruling from the Slovyansk City-District Court on the grounds that the court had not taken into consideration the provisions of the law on freedom of speech and expression.

The Head of the NAM Legal Centre Tetyana Fomina who represented CAT plus in court explains the step taken by the Association as follows: “The overall level of mistrust towards judges among members of the public has reached a critical point. This has occurred due to the actions of certain judges however it undermines public confidence in all judges. The ruling passed by Judge Khaustova on several occasions has circumstances not corroborated by evidence, and evidence not examined during the court hearing. The ruling passed was exceptionally cynical and forces us to draw attention to this lack of objectivity and of prejudice by the judge which in our opinion should be qualified as a violation of their oath and carry with it the appropriate legal consequences.”

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