May 16, 2016

Dear Friends,

Newly published decisions this week cover a range of issues: the Bundestag (German Parliament) ordered to release a complete list of lobbyists who had been issued permanent entry passes, a prominent Salafist Imam was convicted of glorification of and incitement to terrorism, and a a satirical image of Jesus Christ was deemed offensive to the religious feelings of Christians.

From Brazil we feature a decision on the protection of the right to protest and from the UK, a ruling in favor of a father's free speech rights to publicly discuss issues surrounding his daughter's suicide.     

Enjoy reading the case analyses and we welcome your feedback!

For the Record 

At the IPI World Congress on Friday May 19th from 16:00 - 17:30,Columbia Global Freedom of Expression will present recent case law from the database along with Scott Griffen who will discuss global defamation laws from IPI's Media Laws Database.


Facebook says it will appeal a controversial court order that requires it to impose an Austrian law worldwide, which critics warn will pose new dangers to free speech on the Internet.

Solidarity requested that the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression undertake an official mission in South Africa to investigate xenophobia, racial slur and hate speech from people in high office
The Price Media Law Moot Court Competition aims to foster and cultivate an interest in freedom of expression and the role of media and information technologies in our societies. Read their 2016-2017 Brochure for more details.


United Kingdom

Alexander Economou v. de Freitas
Decision Date: July 27, 2016
The U.K. High Court struck down a defamation claim by Alexander Economu who had been falsely accused of rape, finding in favor of the free speech rights of the alleged victim’s father.  Economou, brought defamation proceedings against David de Freitas in relation to interviews de Freitas had with the press about his daughter’s eventual suicide which he blamed on the Crown Prosecution Service’s (CPS) insensitivity to his daughter’s vulnerable mental state while conducting their investigation into her rape allegations against Economu. The Court found that it was important to take into consideration Mr de Freitas’ role as a father and that his statements should be viewed as “that of a source or contributor than that of a journalist” and it would be wrong to expect him to carry out the necessary checks and enquiries that the journalist is professionally expected to do prior to publication. The Court concluded that "Mr de Freitas could and did properly consider the publication to be in the public interest; and that a judgment in favour of Mr Economou would represent an interference with Mr de Freitas' free speech rights out of any reasonable proportion to the need to protect and vindicate Mr Economou's reputation."


Russian Federation

The Case of Khasavyurt Magomednabi Magomed
Decision Date: October 24, 2016
The Caucasus Regional Military Court convicted a prominent Salafist Imam of glorification of and incitement to terrorism and sentenced him to five years in prison. The charges stemmed from the Imam’s sermon in which he criticized the closure of Salafist mosques and urged peaceful resistance. The Military Court heavily relied on expert testimony that analysed the content of the Imam’s speech. The expert opinion declared that the sermon contained statements that incited hatred towards law enforcement, the government, and non-Muslims. Following an appeal, the Russian Supreme Court upheld the conviction but slightly reduced the term of imprisonment to 4.5 years.
LLC SIBFM v. Roskomnadzor
Decision Date: June 6, 2016
The Moscow City Court upheld the decisions of two lower courts, which held that a humorous, digitally manipulated image of Jesus Christ was offensive to the religious feelings of Christians and contained elements of extremism. The case arose after Russia’s state-controlled media and information watchdog, the Roskomnadzor, sent a warning to an online portal, SIBFM, giving it notice that an image hosted on its site had to be taken down within 10 days because it incited extremism. The image in question was of three men in a typical Russian household setting with their faces being replaced by cut-outs of the faces of Jesus Christ, Vladimir Putin, and Alexander Pushkin.


Tagesspiegel v. Bundestag
Decision Date: November 20, 2015
The Higher Administrative Court in Germany affirmed the Lower Court’s decision ordering the Bundestag (German Parliament) to release a complete list of lobbyists who had been issued permanent entry passes finding this information was necessary for the press to report on issues of public interest in a timely manner. The German newspaper Tagesspiegel brought proceedings against the Bundestag following its refusal to release a list of lobbyists allowed entry to Parliament. The Court held that Tagesspiegel's claim for information didn't infringe the Bundestag’s members' ability to perform their duties freely or the lobbyists' right to personality, including the right to decide what happened to personal information. It reasoned that the requested information wouldn't reveal the identity of individual lobbyists, how often they visited or what is talked about. Further, the Court said that supplying the requested information wouldn't infringe the lobbyists' right to personality because both the lobbyists and the Bundestag's politicians voluntarily conduct their business in a public space.

Latin America


Zachia v. Center of Professors of the State of Rio Grande do Sul
Decision Date: November 7, 2012
The Court of Appeal of the State of Rio Grande do Sul dismissed a politician's claim for indemnity in response to the use of a life-sized "dummy" of him in a protest calling for his arrest for alleged misconduct. The politician argued that this violated his right to honor. In reaching its decision, the Court of Appeal stressed the democratic value in ensuring that the right to demonstrate freely takes preference over personality rights. The Court of Appeal also highlighted that the protest was on an issue of public interest, based on current events, and concerned political figures. The politician subsequently appealed the decision to the Supreme Court of Brazil, which dismissed the appeal.

Other Noteworthy News

Uganda's censorship board has banned a Dutch film, The Dinner Club, after accusing it of "glorifying homosexuality" the Embassy of The Netherlands in Kampala has said.
Hate crime surges in America since Trump presidency

Campaigners fear hateful rhetoric is becoming the "new normal" as figures show a reported 106% rise in such incidents in schools.


How Germany Is Tackling Hate Speech: New Legislation Targets U.S. Social Media Companies

Venezuela Tries Protesters in Military Court. President Nicolás Maduro, beleaguered by a second month of protests against him, has prosecuted political rivals under terrorism laws and expanded his powers by emergency decrees. His backers on the Supreme Court have even tried to dissolve the national legislature, which is led by the political opposition.

Hundreds of conservative protesters hosting a “Free Speech Rally” on Boston Common clashed with counter-demonstrators from local socialist and anti-fascist groups yesterday after American flags were burned and insults were hurled across a police line and at least one face-to-face confrontation turned violent.
Columbia Global Freedom of Expression seeks to advance understanding of the international and national norms and institutions that best protect the free flow of information and expression in an inter-connected global community with major common challenges to address. 

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