Czech towns will be allowed to ban sale of porn on newsstands

10-02-2006

Visitors to Prague will have noticed that unlike in many Western countries, pornographic magazines are freely available at Czech newsagents. So far Czech law has only regulated their sale on street newsstands where they have to be covered, with only the title of the magazine visible. But the Constitutional Court has now ruled that towns will be allowed to ban the sale of porn magazines on newsstands altogether.

Five years ago, Slavomil Blaha, who owns a newsstand in the centre of Prague was given a fine for selling pornographic magazines, which was banned at that time. He argued that his rights as a businessman had been infringed. His case was discussed by several institutions and eventually ended up at the Constitutional Court. But on Thursday, Slavomil Blaha finally lost his case because the Constitutional Court ruled that individual local authorities have the right to ban the sale of such publications on newsstands.

Under current legislation, shops can display and sell pornographic mazagines without covering the explicit photos, although some do cover them with black plastic. In kiosks sellers are obliged to cover them but there is no unified standard, so often one can see more than just the title.

Earlier today we spoke to a few people in the centre of Prague, both locals and tourists, and asked them about their views on the sale of porn in places where it can be openly seen.

Young Czech woman: "It should not be as open as now. It's the same situation as with alcohol or drugs."

Young Czech man: "Pornography attacks us very strongly in public space, so [a ban] would be good."

British woman: "If it is where there are a lot of kids who should not really be seeing that kind of thing, then [a ban] is probably a good thing."

American man: "As a proponent of free speech and free expression of ideas I think they should [be displayed], I'm not against that."

With the Constitutional Court ruling being so recent, local authorities are only starting to discuss the issue. I spoke to representatives of the town hall in Znojmo, in the traditionally conservative region of South Moravia, and they said they did not see any need to further regulate the sale of pornographic magazines because they had not received a single complaint in recent years.

The city councils in Ceske Budejovice and Pardubice said explicitly they did not plan any such ban. But the Czech Republic's second city, Brno, is considering stricter measures. The Brno town tall spokesman, Pavel Zara.

"The city of Brno will examine the ruling of the Constitutional Court. From January 1st, some stricter measures have been in place in Brno, regarding the sale on newsstands. But Thursday's ruling is for us a new stimulus to look into the matter and use the opportunity to enforce stricter regulation of the sale of pornographic magazines."

10-02-2006