The right of journalistic newsgathering during demonstrations

By Dirk Voorhoof and Daniel Simons

In a case about a Ukrainian journalist being arrested during an anti-globalisation protest in Russia, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Butkevich v. Russia (13 February 2018) has clarified that the gathering of information is an essential preparatory step in journalism and an inherent, protected part of press freedom. The ECtHR found that the arrest, prosecution and conviction of the journalist had violated his right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR). The ECtHR also found violations of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty) and of Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair trial). This blog focuses on the aspects of journalism and freedom of expression under Article 10 ECHR, and in relation to the right of peaceful demonstration under Article 11 ECHR. The judgment offers important support to journalists covering public events, demonstrations and police actions, especially after the disappointing outcome in the case of Pentikäinen v. Finland. Continue reading

Egill Einarsson v Iceland: the Court deals with an offensive Instagram post

This guest post was written by Ingrida Milkaite, Ghent University*

On 7 November 2017 the European Court of Human Rights (the ECtHR, the Court) found a violation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The main issue at hand was the Court’s assessment of whether the right balance between the applicant’s right to privacy (Article 8) and Mr X’s right to freedom of expression (Article 10) was struck by national courts.
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The European Court & Defamation of the Dead: searching for clarity

By Jonathan McCully (Media Legal Defence Initiative / Columbia Global Freedom of Expression)

On 28 November 2017, in MAC TV v. Slovakia, the European Court of Human Rights (European Court) found a violation of the right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the Convention where the Broadcasting Council of Slovakia had fined a television programme for showing a lack of respect to the dignity of the President of Poland following his death in a tragic plane accident. The case is one of the few where the European Court has considered the human rights implications of controversial stories following the death of an individual. However, it leaves much to be desired in terms of clarifying the status of “defamation of the dead” laws under the Convention. Continue reading

Tamiz v. UK: Google’s blog-publishing service is not liable for offensive comments

This guest post was written by Ingrida Milkaite (Ghent University)*

On 12 October 2017 the European Court of Human Rights (the Court, the ECtHR) decided on the liability of Google Inc. as an information society service provider for offensive comments posted below a blog post about Mr Payam Tamiz. His application filed under article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR, the Convention) was declared inadmissible.

Background and facts Continue reading

Robust protection of journalistic sources remains a basic condition for press freedom

By Dirk Voorhoof, Human Rights Center UGent, Legal Human Academy and member of the European Center for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)

In the judgment in the case Becker v. Norway the ECtHR showed once more its concern about the importance of the protection of journalistic sources for press freedom and investigative journalism in particular. The ECtHR emphasised that a journalist’s protection under Article 10 ECHR cannot automatically be removed by virtue of a source’s own conduct, and that source protection applies also when a source’s identity is known. The judgment has been welcomed by the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), as it is perceived “to strengthen the protection of journalistic sources as one of the basic conditions for media freedom”. The EFJ also calls on states “to adopt legislation with the purpose of implementing journalists’ right to protect their sources, following international standards” and strongly calls for a broad and effective protection of whistleblowers. Continue reading

Medžlis Islamske Zajednice Brčko v Bosnia and Herzegovina: A Simple Speech Case Made Unbelievably Complex?

By Stijn Smet, Melbourne Law School. Stijn is Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the ARC Laureate Program in Comparative Constitutional Law and co-editor with Eva Brems of the new volume When Human Rights Clash at the European Court of Human Rights: Conflict or Harmony? (OUP, 2017)

Imagine, if you will, two scenarios. The first involves four NGOs writing a private letter to the highest authorities of a Bosnian city. “According to our information”, the NGOs state in the letter, the newly appointed Serbian director of a public radio station has displayed a problematic attitude towards Muslims and Bosniacs. Her past actions, the NGOs claim, “absolutely disqualify” her from being director of a multi-ethnic radio station. The NGOs further press upon the authorities the “hope that you will react appropriately”. It turns out, however, that the factual allegations made in the NGOs’ letter are all incorrect or (grossly) exaggerated.

Now picture the second scenario: the very same letter is published in three daily newspapers.

Both scenarios seem rather different. It would make sense, then, to apply distinct free speech standards to both. They might even call for opposite solutions. Not so, says the Grand Chamber of the ECtHR in Medžlis Islamske Zajednice Brčko and Others v Bosnia and Herzegovina. In a complex judgment marked by contorted reasoning, the Court equates NGOs to the press. The Court also suggests that it ultimately does not matter all that much whether wrong factual allegations are made in private letters or disseminated publicly. Continue reading

Bayev and Others v. Russia: on Judge Dedov’s outrageously homophobic dissent

Earlier this week, we published a blog post by Pieter Cannoot and Claire Poppelwell-Scevak on the judgment of Bayev and Others v. Russia in which the Court held that Russia’s so-called gay propaganda law violated the European Convention. In this blog post, I will not further dwell upon the outcome of the case or the reasoning by the majority. However, it is necessary to highlight and protest against the dissenting opinion by Judge Dedov. In his dissent, the Russian judge has crossed a line by making outrageously homophobic statements that are unworthy of a judge at the European Court of Human Rights. Continue reading