Freedom of speech triumphs over Auchan Hungary Ltd.

The Budapest Court of Appeal has reversed the verdict of first instance on 14 Sept, 2006, in the case of Auchan Hungary Limited versus The Clean Air Action Group. According to the decision, András Lukács, President of The Clean Air Action Group was not guilty of defamation as originally charged. András Lukács was represented by Environmental Management and Law Association (EMLA) and HCLU.

Auchan sued András Lukács in May, 2005 after he had published his writing titled „The miracles of Auchan” in the principal Hungarian daily. The article dealt with the multinational firm’s investments and its relationship with authorities focusing on the anomalies relating to the firm’s building license.

The verdict of first instance was a judgment for the suitor, obligating the defendant to release a statement in which he admits the fact of violating the law and also paying 1 million HUF compensation.

On the trial of second instance today, the Budapest Court of Appeal changed the decision and dismissed the suitor’s plaint as a final judgment. The court agreed with the defendant’s arguments saying the article expressed the author’s opinion and not facts.

In such cases the court should examine whether the opinion is valid or hurtfully humiliating. The court has pointed out what the spokesperson of Auchan has also admitted that there have been anomalies within the building licensing process and also that the prosecutor’s investigation has the same result. Considering these facts mentioned above, one cannot say the opinion was not well-founded.

In the judicial practice, following the Constitutional Court’s interpretation, the court does not examine the value of the opinion when the criteria of validity is fulfilled since in the Republic of Hungary everyone has the right to express his opinion in public affairs.

HCLU welcomes this interpretation of law of the Budapest Court of Appeal otherwise in such cases examining relationship of multinational firms and public authorities, when testifying is quite difficult, one could not express his opinion without having specific evidences.

Environmental Management and Law Association

 

 

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