Defamation remains a criminal offence in Slovakia (punishable with imprisonment).
The Slovak Criminal Code contains one related offence: defamation (Art. 373).
Defamation is defined as communicating false information about another person that can seriously damage the person’s reputation among fellow citizens, the person’s career, business, and/or family relations, or cause the person serious harm. The punishment is imprisonment for up to two years.
If the act of defamation causes substantial damage, the maximum prison term is increased to five years. If the act causes large-scale damage, loss of employment, or divorce, the offender faces three to eight years in prison.
Criminal Defamation of Public Officials
Criminal Defamation of the Head of State
Criminal Defamation of the State and its Symbols
It should be noted that Art. 423 of the Slovak Criminal Code prohibits defamation or any nation or its language. The punishment in this case is imprisonment from one to three years. When such act is committed “with at least two more persons, in association with foreign power or agent, in the capacity of a public official, under a crisis situation or by reason of special motivation”, the punishment is imprisonment from two to five years.
Criminal Defamation of Foreign States and Symbols
Criminal Defamation of the Deceased
It should be noted that Art. 423 of the Slovak Criminal Code prohibits defamation based on a person’s religious affiliation (or lack thereof). The punishment in such case is imprisonment from one to three years.
Other Relevant Criminal Provisions
Defamation on account of personal characteristics/group defamation
Defaming persons on account of their race, nation, nationality, complexion, ethnic group or family origin is a criminal offence under Art. 424a of the Slovak Criminal Code. The punishment is imprisonment from 1 to 3 years.The offence must be committed publicly. If the offence is committed “by reason of specific motivation”, the penalty is increased to imprisonment from two to five years.
Statistics on Application
The following are official data from Slovakia’s General Prosecution Service for the year 2014:
- For Art. 373 (defamation), there were 12 cases closed, leading to 4 convictions, in turn resulting in 1 unconditional prison sentence, 1 suspended prison sentence, 1 criminal fine, and 1 one ceased sentence.
- There were no convictions for defamation (Art. 206) under the previous criminal code. (The current Slovak Criminal Code took effect in 2006).
The following are official data for the year 2013:
- For Art. 373 (defamation), there were 17 cases closed, leading to 7 convictions, in turn resulting in three suspended prison sentences, 3 criminal fines, and 1 type of sentence listed as “other”.
- There was one conviction for defamation (Art. 206) under the previous Slovak Criminal Code.
Data for the years 1999 – 2014 are available here (Slovak).
Slovakia does not have a specific civil defamation law.
The of the Slovak Republic provides for the protection of one’s honour under the broader right of “protection of personality”. Under Article 11 of the Civil Code, a natural person is entitled to protection of his “civic honour, human dignity and privacy”. Further, the Civil Code provides the individual with the right to seek redress in cases where their personality rights, among them the protection of their civic honour, have suffered “unauthorized interference” (Art. 13).
There are no caps on non-pecuniary damages for defamation in Slovak law.
In the case of damage to personality rights, a victim can seek “the elimination of the consequences of the intervention” (Article 13(1)), or if such elimination is not considered sufficient, compensation for non-pecuniary harm (Art. 13, par. 2). The amount of compensation should take into account the seriousness of the injury and the circumstances surrounding the infringement (Art. 13, par. 3).
Truth: Not specifically in statute, but the established practice in the Slovak civil system is that, for a plaintiff to succeed in defamation proceedings, they need first to prove that the allegations made against them are objectively able to interfere with their rights under Article 11 of the Civil Code. Further, if the defendant is able to produce evidence of the truth of their allegations, this can be used as their defence.
Opinion: Not specifically in statute, but the Slovak Constitutional Court held in a judgment of October 2010 that opinions, positions and critiques fall outside the ambit of Article 11 of the Civil Code and its protection of personality and civic honour, even when expressed in an opinionated manner.
Privileged reporting: Art. 5, par. 3 of the states that publishers and news agencies will not be responsible for the content that is provided by official authority or a legal person established by law and published in its original form or published content is notice of urgent public interest.
Media Cases and Case Law
Recent Legal Changes
No known relevant changes.
Notes and Acknowledgements
Information on defamation laws in Europe was collected by the International Press Institute (IPI) in collaboration with the School of Public Policy’s Center for Media, Data and Society at Central European University in Budapest and their partners at the SHARE Foundation in Belgrade. (Read more about our partners here.)
The information contained in this database is for informational and advocacy purposes only. If you are a journalist facing a defamation claim, you should seek legal advice from a qualified attorney. However, if you are unable to find such an attorney, IPI may be able to assist you in doing so. Please contact us at ipi[at]freemedia.at.
Information on Slovakia was last updated in January 2015.
September 15th, 2015