The European Court’s Fifth Section has unanimously held that a damages award made against an Irish newspaper for defamation violated the right to freedom of expression, under Article 10 of the European Convention. While the judgment in Independent Newspapers v. Ireland concerned Irish defamation law prior to reforms brought about in 2009, it is still significant for signalling to Irish courts that unpredictably high damages have a “chilling effect,” and require the “most careful scrutiny” and “very strong justification.” Continue reading
By Galina Arapova, Director of Mass Media Defence Centre, senior media lawyer, Russia
On 21 February, the Court delivered its judgment in the case of Orloskaya iskra v. Russia, concerning the use of electoral laws to curb or restrict media reporting at election time and the circulation of critical opinions and information about candidates, their programs and political views.
The case deals with the applicant’s conviction for an administrative offence for publishing critical articles about a politician during the 2007 parliamentary election campaign in Russia. The applicant, regional newspaper “Orlovskaya iskra”, whose political affiliation was specified on the front page, had published two critical articles. Continue reading
by Dirk Voorhoof
In its decision of 9 March 2017 in Rolf Anders Daniel Pihl v. Sweden, the ECtHR has clarified the limited liability of operators of websites or online platforms containing defamatory user-generated content. The Court’s decision is also to be situated in the current discussion on how to prevent or react on “fake news”, and the policy to involve online platforms in terms of liability for posting such messages. Although the Court’s ruling expresses concerns about imposing liability on internet intermediaries that would amount to requiring excessive and impractical forethought capable of undermining the right to impart information via internet, the decision in Pihl v. Sweden itself guarantees only minimal protection for the rights of internet intermediaries and users’ rights.
On 9 February 2017, the European Court of Human Rights handed down an important judgment in Selmani and Ors v. The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Application No. 67259/14), a case that considers the forcible removal of journalists from a parliamentary press gallery. The Court’s finding that the removal was a violation of the right to freedom of expression is a valuable pronouncement in a global context where a number of states have used similar measures to suppress reporting on parliamentary affairs.
By Stijn Smet
A few weeks ago, a Section of the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the Armenian government had not exceeded its margin of appreciation by summarily dismissing senior civil servants who had voiced critical remarks on the democratic nature of the 2008 presidential elections in Armenia. The Court’s view on the need for a ‘politically neutral body of civil servants’ in its Karapetyan and Others v. Armenia judgment is worrying. It risks demoting senior civil servants to mere lackeys of the executive, impeding them from playing a potentially vital role in defending democracy and the rule of law.
Guest post by M. Schaap-Rubio Imbers, PhD Candidate international public law, Erasmus School of Law
On the 8th of November 2016, the ECtHR’s Grand Chamber delivered its judgment in Magyar Helsinki Bizottság v Hungary. The applicant NGO (Magyar Helsinki Bizottság) complained that the refusal of police departments to disclose information on the appointment of public defenders upon their request represented a breach of its rights as set out in article 10 ECHR. The Court held by fifteen votes to two that there has indeed been a violation of article 10. This judgment is the latest ruling on access to public interest information, and as such a very welcome elaboration of the Court’s position on the right of access to public interest information under article 10 ECHR.
Considering that others have already provided a good overview of the background and what is at stake in this judgement (here) and provided a general discussion of the case at hand (here), in this contribution I will focus particularly on the criteria established by the Court for access to public interest information under article 10 ECHR.
By Ronan Ó Fathaigh
The European Court’s Fourth Section has held in Ziembiński v. Poland (No. 2) that a newspaper editor’s conviction for describing local government officials as “dim-witted” and a “numbskull” violated the editor’s Article 10 right to freedom of expression. The judgment may prove decisive for future prosecutions of journalists under article 216(2) of Poland’s criminal code, which makes it a specific offence to “insult” a person “through the mass media,” and carries a possible one-year prison sentence. Tragically, however, the editor, Maciej Ziembiński, passed away two years ago aged 70, and did not live to see the Court’s finding that his conviction violated the European Convention.