Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico, who clings to his communist roots, often sues the media for libel and has been awarded substantial compensatory damages. In 2009, Fico was awarded €92,000 in damages for various libel claims against the press, including €66,000 in a case where a newspaper was unable to prove that Fico had called two journalists “dirty bastards”.
Monte Wolverton drew this cartoon view of the inside of President Bush’s colon.
Editorial cartoonists in America are given broad protections allowing them to ridicule public figures. By choosing to become a public figure, American politicians give up their right to sue cartoonists. I drew President Clinton as the character in the “Operation” game at the time of his heart surgery. One of our syndicated cartoonists, Monte Wolverton, drew an anal-interior view of President George W. Bush after a colonoscopy revealed five small polyp growths in Bush’s colon — cartoons lampooning our leaders’ health issues are common fare in American editorial cartoons.
Being subject to public scrutiny and potential ridicule should be a part of the job for public officials in the civilized world – especially when it comes to spineless despots, like Fico.
Suing the press seems like a weird limbo between totalitarianism and a free press. Not breaking your knee caps just your pocketbook.