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

Insulting a politician right after her death: Does the ECHR protect the reputation of the deceased?

By Valeska David

At the end of 2014, when deciding on the admissibility of a case brought by Stalin’s grandson, who sued a newspaper and the author of an article for defamation of his grandfather, the ECtHR stated that the heir of a deceased person could not claim a violation of the latter’s article 8’s rights since they are non-transferable.[1] Less than two years later, however, the recent judgment in Genner v. Austria (Application no. 55495/08) seems to cast a shadow of doubt on that principle. Furthermore, this judgment brings about interesting questions on what can and cannot be said about a public figure who has just passed away. Before turning to these questions, let’s first examine the facts of the case.

Continue reading

Yes Prime Minister!

This post is written by Dirk Voorhoof* and Rónán Ó Fathaigh**

In the case of Tuşalp v. Turkey, the European Court was asked to consider whether two defamation actions taken by the Prime Minister of Turkey against a journalist for protection of his personality rights were compatible with Article 10 of the European Convention.

Continue reading

A Poll on Palomo Sánchez

We are pleased to be organising our first poll to ask our readers about their opinion!

The poll concerns the recent judgment of Palomo Sánchez v. Spain in which the Grand Chamber of the Court ruled that the Spanish courts had not failed their positive obligation to protect the freedom of expression of four employees who were dismissed by their employer for having insulted two of their co-workers and a member of management. The employees, who were also executive members of a trade union they had set up, were dismissed after they had published two articles and a cartoon in the union newsletter, severely criticising management and specifically denouncing two of their co-workers for having testified in favour of the company in proceedings the applicants had brought against it in the context of a social dispute. In its judgment the Grand Chamber held in particular that, due to their offensive and insulting character, the cartoon and articles overstepped the bounds of acceptable criticism of private individuals under article 10 ECHR. The Court held that the sanction of dismissal was not disproportionate and that article 10, read in the light of article 11, had not been violated.

Considering the crucial importance of Palomo Sánchez for trade union freedom of expression we are curious about the opinion of our readers on one particularly controversial aspect of the case and the judgment: the cartoon and its assessment by the Court.

Participate in our poll and find out what the other voters thought of it! Should you wish to clarify your response, do not hesitate to use the comment section below the post.

Translation from left to right (by Spanish native speaker): “Slurp, slurp, is everything going well, Mr. Garcia?”; “I already told you that you were FREED as long as you kept me well-served … SERVED!”; “Listen, this one has jumped the queue!”; “Shut up … or the “sucking” up will otherwise be over for us”.

Acquittal of Broadcaster for Criminal Defamation and Insult Violates Article 8

Today’s guest post was written by Rónán Ó Fathaigh, one of our colleagues at the Human Rights Centre. More information on Rónán can be found on the website of the Center for Journalism Studies of Ghent University, here.

 

Following the Mosley v. the United Kingdom judgment delivered by the Fourth Section of the European Court some time ago, it would seem appropriate to highlight a very surprising judgment delivered by the Third Section recently which held that there had been a violation of Article 8 where the Romanian courts had acquitted a broadcaster in criminal defamation and insult proceedings concerning statements made in a press release.

Continue reading

Absence of prior-notification requirement does not violate Article 8: Mosley v UK

Guest post by Rónán Ó Fathaigh, PhD candidate at Ghent University. For more information on Rónán, find him here.


This week the Fourth Section of the European Court delivered its much anticipated judgment in Mosley v. the United Kingdom, which unanimously held that the absence of a prior-notification requirement on newspapers to give advance notice to a person before publishing private details does not violate Article 8.

The applicant in Mosley had successfully brought legal proceedings against a British newspaper for invasion of privacy over a series of articles which detailed the applicant’s sexual encounter with a number of prostitutes. It was also alleged that the applicant had engaged in Nazi role play during the sexual encounter. The articles had been based on a clandestine recording, and the video was made available on the newspaper’s website. The domestic courts found that there had been no Nazi element to the sexual activities, and held there had been a violation of the applicant’s right to privacy, awarding £60,000 in damages.

Having been successful in the domestic proceedings, the applicant took the unusual step of making an application to the European Court. The applicant argued that the award of damages was not an adequate remedy for a violation of privacy, and that the only effective remedy would have been an injunction to prevent publication. It was argued that the failure of the United Kingdom to impose a legal duty upon newspapers to give prior-notification to a person before publishing private details was a violation of its positive obligations under Article 8. It was argued that such a duty would provide a person with the opportunity to seek an injunction to prevent publication.

Continue reading