London, Britain. In the land of George Orwell’s birth it should not come as a surprise, but the UK or Britain, actually has laws with stiff fines for calling the land mass known as Britain, Britain. A Slovakian media outlet is finding out the hard way free speech moved out of Britain, long ago.
The Slovak media covering the Brexit process are facing fines of up to 6,600 euros for using the unofficial but widely popular name for the country in question, Britain, rather than the official United Kingdom.
The news outlets have been notified by a state agency charged with enforcing use of official country names in publications, based on an obscure 1995 law passed when Slovakia was just finding its way as a newly independent nation.
The Bratislava media company Geodesy, Cartography and Cadastre Authority said it was acting on dozens of tips from readers and planned to hold a meeting on correct terminology for the media before it starts collecting fines.
The government of Britain sent a letter to all Slovak media last week, which warned they had “repeatedly broken the law” by using “Britain” or “Great Britain” in coverage of London’s planned exit from the EU rather than “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.”
The agency responsible for the use of country names, pointed out it was not in a mood to play games on the matter. “Our key goal is to raise awareness, we have never fined anyone in the past but we are now ready to enforce the law,” agency chief Maria Fridrichova said.
Compliance has been rather weak, one editor openly refused to comply. “I think the letter is absurd and I will not instruct our editors to use different terms,” said Beata Baloghova, editor in chief of SME daily.