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Court dismisses company's lawsuit against "Chetverta Vlada"

27.03.2024, 13:06

Anna Khinochyk next to the Commercial Court after the judgement announcement. Photo by "Chetverta Vlada"

On March 26, the Rivne Oblast Commercial Court dismissed the defamation lawsuit filed by the company "Axel Medical" against the investigative journalism agency "Chetverta Vlada" and their journalist Anna Khinochyk, "Chetverta Vlada" reports.

The company demanded that the agency retracts the information featured in Anna Khinochyk's investigation about the purchase of a robotic walking restoration system for Rivne City Hospital No. 2 for 29 million hryvnias.

The outlet released the investigation "Non-evidence based garbage for colossal money: Rivne buys equipment for soldiers' rehabilitation" in April 2023. It contains a detailed analysis of the robotic system purchase deal, where, as the journalists learned, the hospital paid significantly more money than the system was worth. The investigation also includes comments from experts, most of whom believe that the effect of this equipment is not worth the money paid for it.

In late November 2023, the LLC "Axel Medical" sued "Chetverta Vlada" and the author of the investigation, Anna Khinochyk. The company believes that the article was defamatory, as it started to lose clients after it. They demanded that the material be declared misleading and the media and the journalist be ordered to retract the information and take down the investigation.

"We have a letter from October 3, 2023 which says that a contract is being canceled due to the release of such an article. Although the cooperation (with the clients. – Author) was planned to last throughout 2023 and 2024", said the "Axel Medical" representative, attorney Ivanna Gurez, during the March 26 hearing in the Rivne Oblast Commercial Court.

However, the attorney could not explain to the court exactly what information in the investigation she considers to be misleading.

Yevhen Vorobyov, the lawyer with the NGO "Human Rights Platform" who represented the interests of "Chetverta Vlada", calls the lawsuit frivolous.

"As we have already checked the evidence, this lawsuit is baseless, and we consider it as pressure on the media. What is there to declare misleading? The fact that "Axel Medical" won the tender deal? But this fact was confirmed by the plaintiffs themselves, as they submitted the documents related to the tender. Shall we declare that the experts' opinion is misleading?" he said.

According to journalist Anna Khinochyk, the investigation revealed the uncomfortable truth not only about the equipment sellers, but also about the local authorities' ways of handling the taxpayers' money and the legitimisation of such equipment purchases at the state level.

"The company is suing us because it believes that its honor, dignity and business reputation have been tarnished by our investigation. I believe that their business reputation was tarnished not by our material, but by the fact that the company sells medical equipment which not only has not proven effective, is also significantly overpriced," she said.

"Axel Medical" may appeal the judgement.

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