High Court in Prague rules for the second time in favour of Penta in the dispute with CT

by   CIJ News iDesk III
2024-05-29   11:53
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The High Court in Prague ruled in favour of the Penta Group for the second time yesterday in a dispute with Czech Television (ČT) over a report that was broadcast in 2017 on the company's construction project at Prague's Masaryk railway station. The Prague High Court (HC) upheld the original verdict this year after an appeal, adding that it will add to the reasoning. According to the TV station's lawyer Jitka Bidlová, this is censorship interference. She will discuss the next course of action with her client, but expects another appeal.

The dispute concerns a report published by ČT in the programme Don't Give Up Plus. In addition to information about Penta's project at the Masaryk railway station and its evaluation by various respondents, it also included other information about the company's activities. The latter subsequently filed a lawsuit claiming that the coverage was unbalanced. For example, Penta said the information regarding its business ties to China was unrelated to its subject matter and served only to manipulate the viewer. CT rejected this.

The Municipal Court in Prague first ordered the broadcaster to publish an apology in 2020, and the High Court in Prague added an obligation to remove parts of the report after an appeal. The television subsequently appealed to the Supreme Court, which sided with it, citing freedom of speech. In view of the public interest, it could not be said that the information in the report was not related to the project or that it was inappropriate to include it.

The dispute thus returned to the Prague High Court. "We stand by our opinion," the chairman of its chamber, Jiří Čurda, said today. According to the Supreme Court, although the information was related to the topic, the ordering and overall concept of the report was manipulative and gave the impression of illegal activity by Penta. The Supreme Court intends to deal with the SC's opinion by giving more detailed reasons for its judgment as to why the information in question was objectionable in the given context.

Lawyers for both sides reiterated their positions to the court yesterday. The firm said the reportage was biased and constructed in such a way as to disparage it. Penta said the SC ruled in a simplistic manner and failed to take into account that even truthful information can unduly affect reputation, for example by manipulative selection and ranking. ČT, on the other hand, stood behind the report, summarised the information needed to form an opinion, and did not attack Penta directly or exceed the limits of the guaranteed freedom of expression.

There have been years of discussion around Penta's long-prepared project on the unused land near Masaryk Embankment, and there have been critical voices from some municipal politicians, conservationists, residents of the centre and civic associations. Construction of the first two buildings directly next to the station began in 2021 and finished late last year.

The company plans to continue building in the area and has bought ČSAD Praha Holding, which owns the Florenc bus station, for that purpose. Penta, in cooperation with the City of Prague, has organised a competition for the further development of the area, which is the basis for the study needed to change the master plan. Penta also co-owns the company CR-City together with Czech Railways, which is planning a project for the roofing of the main station track and its development.

Source: CTK

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