MLDI and the four other intervening NGOs consider the issues involved in the Mándli and Others v. Hungary case of the utmost public importance since they involve the possibility of freely reporting upon the workings of elected parliamentarians in a democratic society. For this reason, they made three main submissions to the Strasbourg Court, nourished by key legal practices and regulations in Europe and worldwide:

(i) The Court should take account of the democratic principle allowing people to be informed and to freely discuss about the activities of the legislature: free expression in the area of political speech weighs heavy on the balancing exercise the Court is required to do before restricting the right granted by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The context of the exchange of political information does count. Free access to political information, parliamentary activities and debates’ content allows citizens to be informed on matters of public interest and to make informed political choices. Therefore, any restriction on the exercise of free expression regarding parliamentary affairs - including a practical restriction on the access to certain parliamentary precincts - requires a compelling justification.

(ii) The Court must take into account the following factors when assessing if the above mentioned restrictions violate the right to freedom of expression: firstly, such measures must be subject to a strict scrutiny, since they hinder media’s ability to gather information on the political affairs of a country; secondly, it should consider the media’s right to report on all MPs activities, not only those authorised by the institution itself; thirdly, such measures excluding journalists from accessing parliamentary buildings should be “prescribed by law”: otherwise, arbitrary measures against critical journalists could be enforced; fourthly, some measures can constitute a form of prior restraint on freedom of expression, which can instead be used only in the most exceptional circumstances; finally, little importance should be given to the possibility for journalists of getting similar information in other ways: the right of a journalist to first-hand reporting from the Parliament and of directly interviewing MPs has to be considered.

(iii) Eventually, the Court should consider that the MPs’ right to privacy in parliament is limited: therefore, the Convention’s protection against unauthorized broadcast of private images does not apply to prevent the use of images of public figures in the course of political activity within the precincts of the parliament. Differently, the MPs themselves are to prove that the use of those images fails to serve any general interest.

Tags: Legal protection Access to information Transparency European Court of Human Rights Media Law
Publication Date: 04/09/2017
Research and Editorial Team: Media Legal Defence Initiative, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Ossigeno per l'Informazione, Mass Media Defence Centre, Media Development Centre; Can Yeginsu, Anthony Jones, Roger Mann and Anna-Katharina Kornrumpf