Czech pop star moves to open US arbitration case

Veteran Czech pop star Helena Vondráčková has sold her agency, along with a defamation claim against the Czech state, to a US lawyer

Chris Johnstone | 19.09.2011
Helena Vondráčková and husband and agent Martin Michal have opened the way for a US arbitration over her claims

Aging Czech pop singer Helena Vondráčková, one of the famous “Golden Kids” from the 1960s, has taken another step in her bid to sue Czech tabloid media and the Czech state for what she claims to be career-damaging defamation.

Vondráčková has sold her Prague-based  artistic agency, Agentura MM Praha, to a Florida lawyer, Michael J. Smith, in a move that could open the way for it to take up her case and launch arbitration proceedings against the Czech state, the Czech news server reports.

The 64-year-old veteran pop star and her husband, Martin Michal, who is also her agent, tried and failed to sue the Czech state for Kč 14.5 million in damages.  The couple say that the Czech Police, and by extension the state, failed to act on their complaints that Czech media had tarnished the singer’s reputation and thus her career and earning power.

The couple say negative tabloid reports about the singer’s alleged decline began in 2000, and they lodged a series of criminal complaints with the police as a result.

The High Court in June ruled that Vondráčková’s reputation had suffered from tabloid reporting and she had struggled to find sponsors for her concerts. It refused, however, to put the blame on the police or public prosecution service.

A US company, unlike a Czech citizen, could launch arbitration proceedings for damages on the basis of the bilateral Czech-US investment protection treaty. Prague is trying to change the long-standing treaty, which it argues is too favorable to US firms and lays the Czech state open to expensive, and sometimes almost spurious, arbitration proceedings.

Michal told Czech Position in June that he hoped that a deal with a US partner would be completed in two months and the defamation and damages case would then be out of his and his wife’s hands.

The couple say negative tabloid reports about the singer’s decline began in 2000 and they lodged a series of criminal complaints with the police as a result.

Right notes

Vondráčková’s singing career began in 1964, when she won a talent contest. Never at odds with the communist regime, unlike her contemporary Marta Kubišová, for example, who was banned after 1968, she has been one of the most famous Czech celebrities ever since.

In May, Vondráčková and Michal complained to the board of national radio broadcaster Český rozhlas (Czech Radio) for not playing her songs since 2008. The broadcast defended itself saying she had been played too much in the past. 

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