Activist’s conviction for hooliganism over ‘obscene’ protest violated Article 10 ECHR

This blog post was written by Ronan Ó Fathaigh and Dirk Voorhoof

On 15 January 2019, the European Court’s Second Section unanimously found that an anti-corruption activist’s conviction for staging an “obscene” demonstration outside a prosecutor’s office, targeting a number of public officials, violated the activist’s freedom of expression. The Court in Mătăsaru v. the Republic of Moldova took the Moldovan courts to task for holding that Article 10 of the European Convention was not applicable to the activist’s protest, with the European Court reiterating that “expressive conduct” which shocks, offends or disturbs is fully protected under Article 10’s guarantee of freedom of expression. Continue reading

Kaboglu and Oran v. Turkey: protecting the private life of scholars, yet failing to recognize the academic freedom dimension at issue

By Sophia Sideridou (intern at the Human Rights Centre of Ghent University)

On 30 October 2018, the European Court of Human Rights held unanimously that, in the case of Kaboglu and Oran v. Turkey, there has been a violation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The applicants were two university professors specializing in the protection of human rights and members of the Advisory Council on Human Rights. After the release of their report addressed to the government concerning questions of minority and cultural rights in Turkey, they faced harsh criticism through newspaper articles containing threats and hate speech against them. According to the ECtHR, the domestic courts of Turkey had failed to strike a fair balance between the applicants’ right to respect for their private life (Article 8) and the freedom of the press (Article 10). In its judgment , the Court identified the failure of the domestic courts to give due weight to the applicants’ Article 8 rights, but failed to recognize the negative impact that the articles in question as well had on their freedom of expression and academic freedom. Continue reading

Academic freedom dimension overlooked in the case of Tuskia and Others v. Georgia

By Joanne Fish (University of Glasgow)

In Tuskia and Others v. Georgia (11 October 2018) the European Court of Human Rights ruled on a case concerning a protest against university reforms by a group of academics at Tbilisi State University. The applicants are nine professors, six of which were members of the Grand Academic Council, the highest representative body of the University until the Council was abolished in June 2005. The Strasbourg court ruled that their removal by the police from the rector’s office had constituted a justified interference with their right to freedom of assembly. In doing so the Court arguably did not take into account a lot of the context of the case, causing the academic freedom dimensions of the case to be significantly downplayed to the extent that it reads akin to an ordinary workplace dispute. Continue reading

E.S. v. Austria: Freedom of Expression versus Religious Feelings, the Sequel

By Stijn Smet, Assistant Professor of Constitutional Law at Hasselt University

In a recent judgment that has made headlines around the world, the ECtHR rules – not for the first time – that Austria can legitimately curb free speech to protect the religious feelings of believers. That the believers in E.S. v. Austria happened to be Muslims surely added to the international attention given to the judgment, especially the opportunistic outrage in certain outlets on the other side of the Atlantic.[1]

When I first read E.S. v. Austria, I was dumbfounded; struck by how contrived and nonsensical some of the ECtHR’s reasoning is. Then, when I read some scholarly comments on the judgment, I was puzzled; struck by how surprised some commentators were about other aspects of the Court’s reasoning. In my reading of E.S. v. Austria, the Court does not say much (or anything at all) it has not said before. Still, it’s remarkable how fervently the Court clings to a line of reasoning many had hoped to see abandoned by now. At the end of this comment, I will venture a guess as to why the Court found no violation of freedom of expression in E.S. v. Austria. Until then, I will explain why I was dumbfounded by the Court’s reasoning and puzzled by some of the commentary thereon. Continue reading

Prosecution of a publisher for ‘denigration’ of Turkey violated Article 10

This blog post was written by Ronan Ó Fathaigh

On 4 September 2018, the European Court of Human Rights delivered a unanimous judgment on Turkey’s controversial Article 301 insult law, and for the first time applied Article 46 of the European Convention, holding that amending the insult law would “constitute an appropriate form of execution” of the Court’s judgment. The Fatih Taş v. Turkey (No. 5) judgment is notable not only for its application of Article 46, but also given that it is the fifth set of criminal proceedings the Court has considered against an Istanbul-based publisher over the publication of various books and periodicals (see  Fatih Taş v. Turkey, Fatih Taş v. Turkey (No. 2), Fatih Taş v. Turkey (No. 3), and Fatih Taş v. Turkey (No. 4)). In all five judgments, including four in the past year alone, the Court has found violations of Article 10’s guarantee of freedom of expression, or Article 6 over the length of the criminal proceedings.   Continue reading

Comparing the Proposed EU Directive on Protection of Whistleblowers with the Principles of the European Court of Human Rights

By Vigjilenca Abazi (fellow at Yale Law School) and Flutura Kusari (legal advisor at the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom)

In April 2018, the European Commission put forward a much-anticipated ‘package of measures’ to strengthen whistleblower protection in the European Union. This includes a proposal for a Directive on the protection of persons reporting on breaches of Union law, which offers minimum standards of harmonization on whistleblower protection in certain fields of EU competences. After years of pro-whistleblowing campaigns by civil society and efforts by the European Parliament (EP) to induce the Commission to propose legislation, whilst the latter continuously rejected such calls, the mere fact that the Commission proposed a binding legal act is viewed as a significant progress. Whether the proposed Directive will be approved remains to be seen as it currently undergoes a lengthy process of review by the Council and the EP under the ordinary legislative procedure. Continue reading

Savva Terentyev v. Russia: criminal conviction for inciting hatred against the police violated a blogger’s freedom of expression

By Dirk Voorhoof (Human Rights Centre, Ghent University and Legal Human Academy)

In Savva Terentyev v. Russia the ECtHR has applied a very high level of free speech-protection for aggressively insulting and hostile comments about police officers, published on a weblog. The ECtHR observes that some of the wording in the blog post was offensive, insulting and virulent, but it found that the (emotional and sarcastic) comments as a whole could not be seen as inciting to hatred or violence. In contrast with the findings by the Russian authorities, the ECtHR is of the opinion that Terentyev’s blog did not pose “a clear and imminent danger” and could not be seen as stirring up “base emotions or embedded prejudices” attempting to incite hatred or violence against Russian police officers. Continue reading