Transparency International (TI) has withdrawn a lawsuit demanding an apology from former Prime Minister Andrei Babis (YES) for repeated allegations that it is corrupt. The dispute between the anti-corruption organization and the former Prime Minister thus ended before the appeal proceedings in the case.
“The lawsuit was withdrawn,” said Kateřina Kolářová, a spokeswoman for the Prague High Court, without further details.
“The Supreme Court recently ruled against a similar case between a legal entity and a natural person, which changed the case law,” explained David Kotora of TI. “We filed the lawsuit in 2019. Over the past three years, the court’s interpretation has changed significantly, to the detriment of all legal entities that are suing someone to protect their reputation,” the organization said.
“Even without a verdict, we still stand behind the fact that Babiš’s offensive and deceitful statements – not only to TI’s address – do not belong in the public space and are a shameful business card for those who utter them. Babiš did so with only one goal, to discredit us in the eyes of the public as retribution for pointing out his conflict of interest, “the organization added.
The right to freedom of speech prevailed
In the past, Babiš called the organization an “absolutely untrustworthy non-profit” or “corrupt non-profit”, which “gave it to the European Commission”, from which TI receives money. The Regional Court in Prague has ruled illegally that the prime minister does not have to apologize to the organization.
The judge then stated that all of Babiš’s controversial statements were made in an open debate in response to TI’s criticism of Babiš. According to the judge, it is clear from the context that Babiš did not accuse the organization of corruption in the criminal law sense, ie of accepting a bribe or other criminal offense. There was no unauthorized interference with TI’s reputation, because in this case Babiš’s right to freedom of expression prevailed, the court said.
TI appealed the verdict. In the meantime, however, the Supreme Court has ruled that a legal person does not have the right to redress for non-pecuniary damage caused by unauthorized damage to its reputation in connection with the relevant provision of the Civil Code. In essence, the case law does not give organizations and companies the opportunity to apologize to the public in the event of defamation.
TI has long been dealing with the topic of Babiš’s conflict of interest. He points to the Stork’s Nest grant case or property ties to the Agrofert holding. In the lawsuit for the protection of personality, she stated that Babiš intentionally harms her with his false statements. She demanded not only an apology, but also that the former prime minister refrain from making similar statements in the future. In July this year, the Central Bohemian Regional Court dismissed the lawsuit for the second time.