Ricci v. Italy: Less Restrictive Alternatives in Exercising Freedom of Expression?

On 8 October 2013, the European Court of Human Rights released its judgment in the case of Ricci v. Italy. The case concerned a broadcast by the satirical television programme Striscia la notizia (on Canale 5), which aired an intercepted episode of another television programme, normally broadcast on the public network RAI. The applicant in Ricci is the producer of the programme. In its judgment, the Court ruled that the domestic authorities – which had sentenced the applicant to four months imprisonment – had imposed a disproportionate sanction on her. However, the Court also ruled that the applicant had acted in contravention of the ethics of journalism by disseminating confidential communications and that, therefore, her condemnation as such did not violate art. 10 ECHR. It was only because of the imposition of an excessive – criminal – sanction that her freedom of expression had been violated. The Court’s judgment is particularly interesting, because it continues the recent trend of chastising applicants for the means they have chosen to exercise their freedom of expression, thereby seemingly imposing a less restrictive alternative requirement upon them.

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