Below, please find the latest case additions to the Columbia Global Freedom of Expression legal database.
As always, we very much welcome your comments and feedback on the case analyses. We sometimes cannot get access to official court documents for our analyses. If you have access to such documents, please forward them to us.
We hope that you continue to find these emails to be a useful introduction to new and seminal jurisprudence from around the world!
December 20, 2016 - January 11, 2017
Nascimento v. State of São Paulo
Decision Date: November 17, 2016
The Court of Appeals of the State of São Paulo held a teacher and the State of São Paulo jointly and severally liable for the harm caused by the teacher's racist and offensive statements made to students during one of her classes. The Court concluded that the statements were serious and caused harm to two of her students who were of African descent. The Court clarified that the State of São Paulo was also responsible because the teacher was a state employee in a public education facility. The Court ordered the State and the teacher to compensate the students for moral damages.
Union of India v. Jindal
Decision Date: January 23, 2004
The Supreme Court of India held that that flying the national flag was a symbol of expression that came within the constitutionally protected right to freedom of expression. The case arose from a business owner's petition to the High Court after government officials forbade him from flying the national flag, citing the Flag Code of India. The Court noted certain restrictions on flying the flag such as barring use for commercial purposes and it reiterated that burning the flag was not permitted for it would amount to disrespect.
Natasha Armes v. Nottinghamshire Council
Decision Date: November 15, 2016
In setting aside an anonymity order in a child abuse case, The High Court of England and Wales found that the victim’s right to disclose the identity of the perpetrators prevailed over their right to privacy. The victim waived her right to anonymity arguing that the order was a derogation of the principle of open justice and an unnecessary interference with her right to freedom of expression. The High Court looked at eight factors in assessing whether the interference with the right to privacy were justified by the principles of open justice or freedom of expression. Among these, the Court found that even though the disclosure would interfere with the perpetrators’ right to a private and family life, there was still no concrete evidence of serious consequences beyond embarrassment or distress for the perpetrators and their family. Furthermore, the High Court emphasized that serious allegations had been proved against the perpetrators, the allegations related to a matter of public concern, and that the victim should be permitted to tell her story as she wishes.
Texas v. Johnson
Decision Date: June 21, 1989
The U.S. Supreme Court held that burning the American flag was symbolic speech protected under the First Amendment. Gregory Lee Johnson burned an American flag as part of a political demonstration during the 1984 Republican National Convention. He was convicted and sentenced to one year in prison with a fine of $2,000 for violating a Texas penal code that prohibited the desecration of a venerated object. The Supreme Court reasoned that Johnson's burning of the flag was expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment and that the State could not criminally sanction flag desecration to preserve the flag as a symbol of national unity.
Hustler Magazine, Inc. v. Falwell
Decision Date: February 24, 1988
The U.S. Supreme Court held that public figures cannot recover damages for alleged intentional infliction of emotional distress from a publication without showing that it contains a false statement of fact made with actual malice. Falwell, a well-known minister and political commentator, sued Hustler Magazine for libel, invasion of privacy and intentionally causing emotional distress by publishing an advertisement "parody" depicting him in an incestuous drunken rendezvous with his mother. Reversing the Court of Appeals judgment which had affirmed the minister's award of damages, the Supreme Court restated the fundamental importance of the free flow of ideas and opinions at the center of the First of Amendment and said that the sort of expression complained of did not come within any of the exceptions to First Amendment protection.
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Project Manager, Columbia Global Freedom of Expression
Columbia Global Freedom of Expression
Program Officer, Columbia Global Freedom of Expression