Ukraine is to pay for the disrespect of some politicians to the freedom of speech

CJSC “The Ukrainian Press-Group” possesses the newspaper “The Day”. The case concerned two articles regarding the presidential campaign of 1999 which were published in the newspaper “The Day” on August 21 and September 14, 1999, in which the author, famous journalist Tetiana Korobova, made a few critical observations regarding two Ukrainian politicians – presidential contenders – Nataliya Vitrenko and Petro Symonenko.

In August 1999 Nataliya Vitrenko and Petro Symonenko brought an action about violation of honor, dignity and business reputation. The both stated that the information given in the newspaper was untrue.

In March 2000 the Minsky court of Kyiv pronounced judgment about untruthfulness of the article about Vitrenko and obliged CJSC “The Ukrainian Press-Group” to pay compensation to her and publish a refutation in the newspaper.

And in June 2000 the court partly satisfied requirements of Symonenko and obliged CJSC “The Ukrainian Press-Group” to pay compensation to the main communist of the country in the amount of 1000 hryvnias and refute the published information.

CJSC “The Ukrainian Press-Group” addressed the European court on December 12, 2000 with the intention to appeal the decisions of the Ukrainian judges in the case on defense of honor and dignity of Nataliya Vitrenko and Petro Symonenko. The court rejected the offered friendly regulation of the conflict, since it decided that respect of human rights requires further consideration of the case.

The court unanimously made the decision that the violation of clause 10 (freedom of opinion) of the European convention for human rights took place. The court also took into account recommendations, reports and resolutions of international bodies and non-governmental organizations which expressed their deep anxiety with the situation of keeping to human rights in Ukraine.

The European court confirmed that the criticism of the both politicians was severe, polemic and written in a sarcastic language. Undoubtedly, both politicians had reasons to feel offended. However, choosing their profession they should have been ready to criticisms; that’s the burden politicians are to take in a democratic society.

According to the decision of the European court, Ukraine is to pay to CJSC “The Ukrainian Press-Group” 588.12 euro of material damage, 33,000 euro for moral damage and 5,521.07 for judicial expenses.

The lawyer Dmytro Kutakh, the representative of the newspaper “The Day” in the European court, in his interview to the “Deutsche Welle” explained: “We built our defense on the fact that the scope of criticizing politicians is much wider. It dealt with evaluative judgments. It was the main basis of our claim to the European court.”

The lawyer hopes that this judicial precedent will promote sooner implementation of norms of the European media law into the practice of the Ukrainian legal proceedings.

Olena Holiuk,

Maryana Kulia


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