Of the total 916 opinions issued by the ECHR in 2013, 59 opinions involved the right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. This review highlights the five most important judgements concerning free expression in 2013. Considering that nearly half of the court’s freedom of expression rulings pertain to defamation and damage to reputation (27 cases out of 59), two such cases are considered in this review.

Belpietro v. Italy, an important opinion concerning criminal defamation holding that prison sentences for defamation are never justified under Article 10 where the defamatory statements concern a matter of public interest. The importance of such ruling, according to the authors, lays in the fact that the Belpietro opinion will be instrumental in helping to bring about criminal defamation reform in Italy, and in Europe generally.

The second important case related to defamation is Delfi v. Estonia, concerning liability for reader comments as a violation of freedom of expression. By giving prominence to the protection of reputation over freedom of expression, the verdict in the Delfi case continues a recent trend in European court jurisprudence of treating the modern-day press and internet with suspicion and caution.

The third case of particular importance is Bucur v. Romania, where a unanimous European court held that a whistleblower’s conviction for disclosing classified information to the press violated freedom of expression. Notably, this is the first of the whistleblower cases decided by the European court which involved national security and classified information.

The fourth case considered in the review is Animal Defenders v. United Kingdom, where the European court upheld the UK’s prohibition on political advertising on television.

Finally, the Perinçek v. Switzerlandcase is scrutinized, where the European court held that a conviction for genocide denial violated freedom of expression

Tags: Defamation and Libel Whistleblowing
Publication Date: 23/02/2014
Research and Editorial Team: Ronan Ó. Fathaigh, Dirk Voorhoof