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Decision 8/2018. (VII. 5.) on annulling Judgment Pfv.IV.20.773/2016/5 of the Kúria
On annulling Judgment Pfv.IV.20.773/2016/5 of the Kúria; Press article, title / Public figure, personality rights
The defendant of the case behind the constitutional complaint was the publisher of a national daily newspaper. An article with the title “Investigation under way against bishop” – the person concretely identified by name – “due to coercion” was published in the paper. The diocesan mentioned in the title had been the plaintiff of first order and subsequently he became one of the petitioners of the constitutional complaint. Further in the article the newspaper presented the following: the prosecutor’s office ordered investigation due to the suspicion of the criminal offence of coercion, “related to the acts” of the diocesan and the commissary.
To protect their rights, the plaintiffs turned to the court. In their opinion, the newspaper falsely stated that an investigation had been started against them due to any criminal offence, as in fact they have not been suspected and the investigation took place against an unknown perpetrator. The title of the article was about an investigation against one of them, despite of the fact that they have not been incriminated. After court proceedings of multiple stages, the plaintiffs finally turned to the Constitutional Court with a constitutional complaint. According to the petitioners, the Curia acted contrary to the Fundamental Law when it held permissible for the title of a press article to contain a falsehood.
As underlined by the Constitutional Court: if the whole of the press article provides true information, then the smaller inaccuracies, falsehoods found in certain sentences or terms of the article do not form ground for legal accountability. However, the Constitutional Court holds at the same time that the criteria concerned should be considered differently when they are applied with regard to the title of an article. In the course of the assessment focusing on personality rights, the title of a press article does not form unity with other parts of the article.
Accordingly, the interpretation of the law provided by the Curia does not comply with the criteria of constitutionality in its part stating that the falsehood contained in the title of the article should be assessed in the light of the totality of the article. Therefore the Constitutional Court annulled the challenged judicial decision. There shall be a repeated procedure in the case, as it is still the duty of the court in charge to decide about the lawfulness of the concrete article concerned in the case.
Judges Dr. Attila Horváth, Dr. Béla Pokol, Dr. Mária Szívós and Dr. András Varga Zs. attached concurring opinions to the decision.