Announcement: Event on Whistleblowing in Europe

We are proud to announce – on very short notice – an exciting event on whistleblowing in Europe, organized in Ghent by our Human Rights Centre colleagues Dirk Voorhoof and Flutura Kusari. The event links in neatly with Dirk Voorhoof’s recent post on this blog on the ECtHR judgment of Matúz v. Hungary. Below, you can find a short description of the event. For more information, including the programme and instructions regarding registration (free, but mandatory), please visit the Human Rights Centre’s website here.

The Human Rights Centre and the Centre for Journalism Studies of Ghent University are organising an event entitled “Whistleblowing in Europe: The Case of EULEX and Maria Bamieh.” The event will take place on Tuesday 2 December 2014 at 7 pm in Auditorium NB1, Law Faculty, Universiteitstraat 4, 9000 Ghent.

Background: The European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) is the biggest international mission of the EU, with more than 1,600 staff members and an annual budget of more than 100 million Euros. In her function of public prosecutor for EULEX, Maria Bamieh filed several internal official requests to start an investigation against two of her colleagues suspected of taking bribes to shut down criminal cases. However, no actions were taken by EULEX. Instead, in October 2014 Ms. Bamieh was suspended for “leaking” documents to a local newspaper in Kosovo and a formal investigation was launched against her. Ms. Bamieh  is coming to Ghent University to tell her story as a whistleblower.

At the event, Ms. Maria Bamieh will give a keynote lecture: ‘A whistleblower’s story from Kosovo: a new challenge for Europe’. The lecture will be preceded by introductions by Professor Dirk Voorhoof and Ms. Flutura Kusari.

Whistleblower Protection for Journalist Who Alarmed Public Opinion about Censorship on TV

by Dirk Voorhoof (UGent)

A recent judgment of the European Court of Human Rights once more illustrates the need for strict scrutiny by the Strasbourg Court in order to keep up the standards of media freedom and the right of freedom of expression and information in European pluralistic democracies. In the judgment of Matúz v. Hungary the European Court confirms the importance of whistleblower protection, in casu for a journalist who alarmed public opinion about censorship within the public broadcasting organisation in Hungary.

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The Dangerous Implications of the “Naked Rambler” Case: On FEMEN Activists and Throwing Paint on Atatürk Statues

By Stijn Smet

On 28 October 2014, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the numerous convictions of Mr. Stephen Peter Gough – better known as “the naked rambler” – for insisting on appearing naked in public at all times, did not violate Mr. Gough’s freedom of expression.

Quite a bit of ink has already been dedicated to Mr. Gough’s case and to explaining why the ECtHR judgment warrants criticism. Particularly worth highlighting are the insightful contributions by Hugh Tomlinson over at Inforrm’s Blog and Marko Milanovic on EJIL: Talk!. Here, I will not regurgitate their poignant critiques. Instead, I set out to question a few specifically troubling passages in the Court’s judgment by indicating the dangerous implications they could have for other, analogous situations.

But first, as tradition dictates, I will briefly summarise the facts of the case and highlight the relevant passages of the Court’s judgment.

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Imposing Costs on Newspaper in Successful Source-Protection Case Did Not Violate Article 10

By Ronan Ó Fathaigh

In the summer of 2009, the Irish supreme court issued a landmark opinion, overturning an order issued against a newspaper to answer questions about a leaked document it had received from an anonymous source. However, four months later, the same supreme court ruled that the newspaper was required to pay the legal costs of the government-created body that had sought the order, because the newspaper had destroyed its copy of the leaked document before the legal action had commenced. In a surprising majority opinion, the Fifth Section of the European Court has now ruled in Keena v Ireland, that the imposition of costs on the newspaper, even though its action was successful, was not a violation of Article 10.

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Conviction of journalist for reporting about sex abuses in a Christian rehabilitation centre violated Article 10 ECHR

By Flutura Kusari * and Dirk Voorhoof **

In Erla Hlynsdottir v. Iceland (no. 2), an Icelandic journalist had been convicted for defamation after reporting that the director of a Christian rehabilitation centre and his wife had been involved in sex games with patients of the centre. The European Court of Human Rights found a violation of Article 10 of European Convention on Human Rights, arguing that the national courts did not pertinently balance the right to freedom of expression with the right to reputation. According to the Court “the most careful scrutiny” is called for when the measures taken by national authorities are capable of discouraging the participation of the press in debates over matters of legitimate public concern. The Court also refers to “the essential function the press fulfils in a democratic society” as a central factor for its determination in the present case.

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German Court Injunction Banning Political Leaflet Violated Article 10: Brosa v. Germany

This guest post was written by Ronan Ó Fathaigh* and Dirk Voorhoof**

In a victory for free expression, the European Court has ruled that a court-imposed injunction banning a political activist from distributing leaflets targeting a political candidate violated Article 10 of the European Convention. The Court in Brosa v. Germany criticised the German courts for refusing to hold that the leaflet was a fair comment on a matter of public interest, as the threshold for proving fair comment was “disproportionately high.” Continue reading

If you can’t stand the heat, don’t turn up the oven: Strasbourg Court expands tolerance for criticism of xenophobia to criticism of homophobia

This post was written by Sander Steendam, Ph.D. Researcher at the Human Rights Centre of Ghent University. Sander works on the IAP project ‘The Global Challenge of Human Rights Integration: Towards a Users’ Perspective’. In his research, Sander focuses on LGBT rights.

On the 17th of April 2014, the European Court of Human Rights issued a judgement in the case of Mladina v. Slovenia. In this case, the Court further develops its standing case law on “public statements susceptible to criticism”. When assessing defamation cases, the Court has in the past found that authors of such statements should show greater resilience when offensive statements are in turn addressed to them.

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