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2022. July 21.

Decision 3324/2022 (VII. 21.) AB on rejecting a constitutional complaint

Decision number: IV/00427/2022
Subject of the case:

Constitutional complaint aimed at establishing the lack of conformity with the Fundamental Law and annulling the judgement No. Pfv.IV.20.849/2021/4 of the Curia (rectification in the press)

The Constitutional Court rejected the constitutional complaint aimed at establishing the lack of conformity with the Fundamental Law and annulling the challenged judgement of the Curia. In the case underlying the proceedings, the petitioner (the editorial office of an internet news portal) published an article reporting that a politician had held a press conference and had issued a statement in connection with reporting a crime related to the sale of a hotel in Visegrád. The plaintiff applied to the petitioner for a press rectification because of the allegations in the article concerning him, but as the petitioner failed to comply with the request within the deadline, the plaintiff brought a press rectification action. The court of first instance had rejected the petitioner’s action and the Szolnok Regional Court upheld this decision. The Curia partially annulled the final judgement and ordered the petitioner to publish a rectification, as according to the Curia, facts had not been proven with regard to the two statements contained in the article. According to the petitioner, the Curia interpreted – contrary to the Fundamental Law – the definition of public affairs in a narrow manner, and in this context wrongly defined the status of the petitioner as a public figure and his duty of tolerance. According to the petitioner, the judgement of the Curia violates the freedom of expression and the right to freedom of the press. In its decision, the Constitutional Court found that the article published by the petitioner quoted a Member of Parliament, the content of which originated from an economic operator whose name and interests had appeared repeatedly in the press. Consequently, the content of the article was about a matter of public interest. However, the article did not contain any rebuttal by the plaintiff concerned, indeed, it can clearly be inferred that the petitioner did not give the petitioner the opportunity to do so before the article was published. The Constitutional Court has previously explained that missing a rebuttal, or at least the possibility to provide one, may in itself justify the responsibility of the press organ concerned. The Curia’s judgement therefore assessed the constitutional aspects governing the disclosure of press releases in accordance with the Fundamental Law, and for this reason the Constitutional Court rejected the petition.