General News

VfGH: Designation as 'lobbyist for Gazprom' not defamatory


Criminal and civil proceedings on the grounds of infringement of personal rights, such as in particular the protection of honor and good economic reputation, are almost commonplace. In practice, it is extremely rare for the Constitutional Court (VfGH) to have to deal with the question of whether a statement is defamatory. 

The occasion for such an exceptional procedure at the Constitutional Court was the parliamentary group report of the Greens on the ÖVP corruption investigation committee. This report was presented at a press conference and also made available for download on the website of the Greens and that of the Parliament. In this report, a former ÖIAG president was described, among other things, as a "lobbyist for Gazprom".

The Constitutional Court has jurisdiction over complaints by a person who claims to have had his personal rights violated by the conduct of a member of a committee of inquiry in the exercise of his duties as a member of the National Council. In his complaint, the former ÖIAG president as complainant stated that his personal rights to the protection of honor and good economic reputation had been violated by the statements made in the parliamentary group report of the Greens. He requested that the Constitutional Court declare the incriminated statements of the Green Party deputies in the ÖVP corruption investigation committee to be unlawful. In its decision, the Constitutional Court stated that a balance had to be struck between the personal rights asserted by the complainant on the one hand and the right to freedom of expression on the other.

In this context, it must also be taken into account that the complainant is a public figure due to his functions and economic activities at private and public companies that are in the public eye. As such, he must "generally accept more far-reaching criticism than any private person". The Constitutional Court further stated that the incriminated statements are "permissible evaluative statements which are based on a true factual core and which also do not represent an excess of value." Since the alleged violation of personality rights did not exist, the Constitutional Court did not uphold the complaint.