Former Politiken chief editor Bo Lidegaard has been ordered by Copenhagen City Court to pay damages of 100,000 kroner to journalist Per Michaelsen.
In 2012, Politiken wrote several articles saying that Michaelsen was suspected of being a spy during the Cold War for the former East German secret service, the Stasi. Cold War historian Thomas Wegener Friis started the fracas in April of 2012 when he claimed to have uncovered the identity of a Danish man that he said was involved in “serious cases” of subversive activities and espionage against his own country.
Friis declined to release the name of the suspected mole for what he called “legal reasons.”
Politiken, under Lidegaard’s watch, named Michaelsen, a former journalist for Ekstra Bladet, as the person who collaborated with the notorious East German intelligence agency, Stasi during the Cold War period. Michaelsen vehemently denied he was a spy.
“No,” he wrote to Politiken at the time. “I would have been the wrong person to go to. I was blacklisted as a subversive and anti-Soviet. I was kicked out of East Germany on the personal order of Walter Ulbricht [the East German head of state at the time].”
“Wrong, unwarranted and defamatory”
Michaelsen has now won the libel case he filed against Lidegaard back in 2012. The court said that the Politiken’s accusations against Michaelsen were “wrong, unwarranted and defamatory” and based “on flimsy evidence that cannot be justified on grounds of freedom of the press”.
The court noted that Friis had never confirmed or denied the accusation published by Politiken and translated in the Copenhagen Post.
Although Michaelsen had demanded a prison sentence for the former chief editor and damages of 300,000 kroner, his lawyer said that he was “happy and satisfied” with the judgment.
Lidegaard said that he will study the basis for the guilty verdict before deciding on whether or not to appeal.