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Court rejects appeal against gag order, IPI concerned at broad nature of injunction

(IPI/IFEX) - Vienna, 8 September 2009 - A Ljubljana District Court on 4 September rejected Slovene daily Dnevnik's appeal against a temporary injunction that stops the paper reporting on an Italian businessman's alleged involvement in a corruption scandal.

The injunction, which carries fines of up to €500,000 for failure to comply, relates to articles printed in Dnevnik on 29 July in which the newspaper cited an Italian newspaper and other web-based material.

Dnevnik continued to report on the issue the following day, prompting the businessman's lawyers to file a civil libel action against the paper on 30 July, claiming that the newspaper had damaged the businessman's reputation.

Less than a week later, on 6 August, Dnevnik received notice of the libel action, as well as a court order banning the newspaper from making any further allusions that the businessman is in any way a "controversial" person, until the end of the libel action.

The injunction covers any "controversial" information about the plaintiff, whether or not it is considered factual.

The Dnevnik filed an appeal against the injunction on 14 August, and received a letter on 7 September notifying them it had been rejected.

"We are bitterly disappointed at the ruling by Ljubljana District Court," Ali Zerdin, editor-in-chief of the Dnevnik, told IPI. "The key problem is not the fact that our obligation to report is limited, the biggest problem is the fact that the public will not be informed of important facts.

"We will appeal to Ljubljana Court of Appeal, and hope that press freedom standards will not change."

"This injunction is worrying for many reasons," said IPI Director, David Dadge. "The fact that the gag order lasts until the end of the court case invites the plaintiff to delay the case for as long as possible, thereby extending the period of prior restraint. The size of the fines for breaching the injunction appear to be out of proportion and aimed at preventing the newspaper from operating as a going economic concern.

"We are also worried that the court has inadequately weighed up the plaintiff's right to protect his reputation against the public's right to know. This overly broad injunction blocks factual reporting on other issues related to the plaintiff that may be significant not only to the general public but also for the court case itself."

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