EU Review Wrongly and Superficially Applies ECtHR Precedent on Whistleblowing

The report drawn up by law professor Jean Paul Jacqué that reviews EULEX’s handling of the whistleblowing case of Maria Bamieh (briefly explained below) reveals that European Union institution employees reporting irregularities do not enjoy protection under the right to freedom of expression. The expert’s narrow and wrong interpretation of whistleblowing protection could discourage other EU employees from voicing their concerns on matters of public interest. Continue reading

Can the right to freedom of expression justify the reporting about Monaco’s reigning monarch’s illegitimate child?

By Dirk Voorhoof

Today, the Grand Chamber of the ECtHR held a hearing in the case of Couderc and Hachette Filipacchi Associés v. France (App. no. 40454/07). The hearing is webcasted and can be viewed on the Court’s website, here. The case concerns the right of privacy and reputation of Monaco’s reigning monarch conflicting with the right to freedom of expression of the French magazine Paris-Match.

Years after French, German and English media revealed that Monaco’s reigning monarch, Prince Albert II, had a child born outside marriage, the European Court needs to decide now whether the measures taken against the French magazine Paris-Match are to be considered interferences violating the right to freedom of expression. The case started when the child’s mother, Ms C, gave interviews to the media saying that she was living in the prince’s Paris apartment and that she received an allowance from him, as being the mother of his illegitimate child. French, German and English media published the interviews along with photographs showing the child as well as Prince Albert. He sued Paris-Match for invasion of privacy, and the French courts considered that the article and the accompanying pictures in Paris-Match came within the most intimate sphere of the Prince’s emotional and family life and were not apt to be the subject of any debate of general interest. According to the French courts the article and pictures in Paris-Match had caused irreversible damage to the Prince, as the fact that he was the child’s father, which had remained secret until publication of the article, had suddenly become public knowledge, against his wishes. Prince Albert II was awarded 50,000 euros (EUR) in damages and Paris-Match was ordered to print details of the judgment on its front cover. In the meantime the Prince had issued a statement in which he publicly acknowledged that the child was his.

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Response to comment on Rubins v. Latvia: adjudication is not erroneous at all

By Dirk Voorhoof, Ghent University

I disagree with the analysis of and the comments on the Rubins v. Latvia judgment by Elena Sychenko, posted on 13 April 2015 on Strasbourg Observers, finding that the judgment is an example of an erroneous adjudication and is granting protection to blackmailing. I consider the judgment a well balanced and transparently motivated example of scrutinizing by the ECtHR of a disproportionate interference with the right to freedom of expression of an employee, in this case of a university professor expressing sharp criticism on the employer’s policy and management.

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Rubins v. Latvia: Does Article 10 ECHR Protect Blackmailers?

This guest blog post was written by Elena Sychenko, Ph.D. student at the University of Catania, Law Faculty, Labour Law Department.

The recent case of Rubins v. Latvia has received much attention from lawyers. Commentators assumed that the Court established a protection of employees not covered by whistle-blowing provisions[1]  and believed that the Court contributed one more time to the protection of democratic values.[2] However, it will be argued that the Rubins judgment is not in line with famous whistle-blowing cases[3] but provides an example of erroneous adjudication and grants protection to blackmailing.

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ECtHR Vindicates Hidden Camera’s Role in Watchdog Journalism

This guest post was written by Flutura Kusari, Ph.D. researcher at the Human Rights Centre of Ghent University, and Nani Jansen, Legal Director of the Media Legal Defence Initiative.

Haldimann and Others v. Switzerland, a decision of the European Court of Human Rights (the “ECtHR”) published on 24 February 2015, backed the investigative methods of four Swiss journalists who had used hidden cameras to expose the malpractice of insurance brokers. The ECtHR found by a majority decision that the journalists’ criminal conviction by the domestic courts and an order to pay a number of small fines violated their right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights. It was the first time the ECtHR examined the use of hidden cameras by journalists in a case where the person filmed was targeted as a representative of a particular profession rather than in a personal capacity.

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The Fourth Section’s Curious Take on Article 10 in Petropavlovskis v. Latvia: Two Comments

This guest post was written by Corina Heri, Ph.D. researcher at the University of Zürich, Switzerland, and visiting researcher at the Human Rights Centre, Ghent University[1]

In its recent judgment in Petropavlovskis v. Latvia, the European Court of Human Rights considered whether the domestic authorities’ refusal to naturalize a government-critical activist constituted a punitive measure in violation of that individual’s rights to freedom of expression (Article 10 ECHR) and freedom of assembly and association (Article 11 ECHR). The present post will comment on two aspects of the Court’s reasoning regarding Article 10 ECHR. In evaluating the applicability of that provision, the Chamber focused on whether the applicant has a right to acquire Latvian nationality and whether he was prevented from voicing his opinions. These emphases of the judgment mean that the matter at the heart of the case, namely whether the applicant was penalized for expressing his opinions, was not addressed.

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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.