Below, please find the latest case additions to the Columbia Global Freedom of Expression legal database.
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April 25 - May 2, 2016
Abril v. Reginaldo
Decision Date: November 12, 2015
The Supreme Court of Brazil upheld a monetary award based on the lower court's findings that an article published by the Abril Group, alleging the involvement of a federal prosecutor in smuggling natural resources from indigenous lands, was untruthful. It, however, reversed a publication order ordered requiring the decision to be published in Abril's own weekly news magazine, Veja because it was made pursuant to Article 75 of the Federal Press Act, which was previously found unconstitutional by the Court in 2009.
Cordero v. Lara
Decision Date: August 21, 2013
The Supreme Court of Chile overturned a lower Court’s judgment by acquitting journalists of the crime of “violation of privacy.” As part of an investigation for the “Chilevisión” network, journalists broadcast video recordings of doctors’ visits taken without the doctor’s knowledge or consent and where they received fraudulent medical certificates for diseases they did not have. The Court had to determine whether a journalist may, by virtue of the right to information, secretly record and then publicly disclose a conversation in which he or she took part, with the purpose of exposing misdeeds that were committed by an individual and are of public interest.
De Carolis and France Télévisions v. France
Decision Date: January 21, 2016
The European Court of Human Rights unanimously concluded that Article 10 was violated in this defamation case stating there had been a disproportionate interference with the right to freedom of expression which was not 'necessary in a democratic society.' The applicant, Patrick de Carolis, was the director and journalist behind a TV documentary titled "September 11, 2001: the prosecution case" which claimed that Prince Turki Al Faisal of Saudi Arabia had financed and participated in Al-Qaeda. The French Court of Appeal ruled that the criminal conviction met the requirement of Article 10 (2) as an interference 'prescribed by law' for a 'legitimate aim' to protect the reputation or rights of others and that penalties imposed were both proportionate to the harm caused to the Prince and were not deterrents to the press. The ECtHR disagreed, reasoning that to punish a journalist for assisting in the dissemination of statements made by another person in an interview would seriously hamper the contribution of the press and should not be done without serious reasons.
The Case of Blocking Il Giornale.it News Website
Decision Date: January 29, 2015
The Joined Chamber of the Italian Court of Cassation ruled that while the precautionary seizure of a website is generally permissible under certain circumstances, regularly registered online newspapers enjoy the same constitutional guarantees as afforded to print newspapers. The case concerned journalists Alessandro Sallusti and Luca Giovanni Fazio who were under investigation for defamation against Judge Antonio Bevere, which led to Il Giornale daily newspaper’s webpage being blocked, Il Giornale.it, pursuant to a precautionary seizure order on March 7, 2014. The Court overturned its previous ruling that had treated the two forms of press differently.
The State v. Kato
Decision Date: December 27, 2015
The Seoul Central District Court acquitted Tatsuya Kato, former Seoul bureau chief for the conservative Japanese newspaper Sankei Shimbun, who had been indicted for criminal defamation in South Korea. The charge arose out of his controversial column in which he alleged that during the April 16 Sewol ferry disaster, South Korean President Park Geun-hye was with her former aide with whom she had an affair. Public prosecutors sought an 18-month prison sentence for allegedly publishing false information. According to the court, while the article contained inappropriate statements, it concerned a matter of public interest and fell "within the area where the freedom of the press should be protected in a democratic society."
Director of Magazine Proceso v. Congress of Mexico
Decision Date: February 6, 2013
The Supreme Court upheld the right of access to information for certain documents that were part of preliminary investigations conducted by the Public Prosecutor's Office (Procuraduría General de la Nación). The Court held that the rule that all documents that are part of preliminary investigations are classified, for the sole reason that they are part of such investigations, is disproportionate and, therefore, violates the right of access to information. The Court’s decision recognizes the right of access to information as a fundamental right and the principle of maximum disclosure as a guiding principle of the constitutional system. In this regard, the judgment reinforces the fact that restrictions on the right of access to information must be exceptional, insofar as it demands that strict requirements be met to make information secret, especially in matters that have a high level of public interest.
Office of the Ombudsman v. Municipality of San Lorenzo
Decision Direction: October 15, 2013
The Supreme Court of Paraguay ruled the city of San Lorenzo must disclose requested salary information pertaining to a number of its public officials arguing that such disclosure is a trend in democratic societies to ensure government credibility and accountability. While acknowledging that the right of access to State-held information admits limitations, the instant refusal did not meet all the necessary conditions set forth by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for legitimate restrictions by States. This case allowed the Supreme Court to clearly establish the scope of the right of access to information under the control of the State or in public sources.
Malaysia v. Zulkiflee Anwar Alhaque (Zunar)
On April 14, 2016, the High Court dismissed Zunar's legal challenge to the Sedition Act. According his lawyer, Eric Paulsen, Zunar appealed to the Court of Appeal regarding the matter on the same date. The situation of the legal challenge being turned down results in the trial at the Sessions Court being postponed. It is scheduled for case management on July 11, 2016.
The Case of Naw Ohn Hla (The Chinese Embassy Protest)
Decision Date: May 15, 2015
On May 15, 2015, the Dagon Township Court in Rangoon, Myanmar sentenced six human rights defenders to four years and four months in prison for (1) rioting under Article 147 of the Penal Code, assault or use of criminal force to deter a public servant from discharging his or her duty under Article 353 of the Penal Code; (2) for making statements causing undue public fear or alarm under Article 505 (b) of the Penal Code; and (3) for protesting without prior permission which is under the Article 18 of the Peaceful Assembly Law. She has been released on April 17, 2016 from Insein Prison in Yangon due to Presidential amnesty.
The Case of Chaw Sandi Htun
Decision Date: December 28, 2015
Ma Chaw Sandi Htun was sentenced to 6 months in prison by the court of the Maubin Township of the Ayeyarwady Delta Region in Myanmar on December 28, 2015. She posted a satirical photo on Facebook of a military officer wearing women's garb. She was found guilty of defamation under the broad Section 66(d) of Myanmar’s Telecommunications Law stipulating that extorting, coercing, restraining wrongfully, defaming, disturbing, causing undue influence or threatening any person by using media platforms. She was released from Maubin prison on March 30, 2016 after completing her sentence.
The Case of Ko Myo Min Min & Ko Naing Htay Lwin
Decision Date: September 11, 2015
Myo Min Min and Naing Htay Lwin were sentenced on September 11, 2015 to two years and six months imprisonment under Article 505 (b) of the Myanmar Criminal Code after they protested without permission. They were also convicted of violating the conditions of permission to protest under Article 18 and 19 of the Peaceful Assembly Law. Both Ko Myo Min Min and Ko Naing Htay Lwin were released due to Presidential amnesty along with other 83 prisoners on April 17, 2016.
The Case of Naw Ohn Hla (Praying at the Shwedagon Pagoda)
Decision Date: June 20, 2015
Naw Ohn Hla was sentenced to four months in prison with hard labor on June 20, 2015 under the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law after being accused of causing a religious disturbance as she held prayers at Shwedagon Pagoda to support the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in 2007. She was released from the Insein Prison in Yangon on April 17, 2016 due to Presidential amnesty.
The Case of Patrick Kum Jaa Lee
Decision Date: January 22, 2016
On October 14, 2015, Burmese activist Patrick Kum Jaa Lee was arrested without warrant for mocking the country's commander-in-chief of the armed forces, Min Aung Hlaing, on Facebook. On January 22, 2016, the Court found Patrick guilty of "online defamation" and sentenced him to six months in prison. He was released on April 1, 2016 after serving his sentence.
The Case of Unity Weekly News
Decision Date: October 2, 2014
Five journalists of Unity Weekly were sentenced to 10 years imprisonment with hard labor by the Pakokku Townshop Court in Mandalay, Burma on July 10, 2014. The journalists were punished for their involvement in the publication, “A secret chemical weapon factory of the former generals, Chinese technicians and the commander-in-chief at Pauk Township." They were accused of disclosing state secrets, trespassing and taking photos of a restricted area. The five journalists were released along with other 83 prisoners due to Presidential pardon on April 17, 2016.
Tun Khaing v. Htin Lin Oo
Decision Date: June 2, 2015
Htin Lin Oo is a writer and former information office of the National League for Democracy (NLD). He was sentenced to two years imprisonment and hard labor on June 2, 2015 by the Chaung-U Township Court for a speech he made on October 23, 2014 which was considered by the Court to intentionally defame Buddhism. He was released from Monywa Prison due to Presidential amnesty on April 17, 2016 along with other 83 prisoners.
SMUG v. Lively: Expert Opinion of Professor M. Cherif Bassiouini
Amicus Brief filed in the US District Court of Massachusetts by Professor M. Cherif Bassiouni in support of Plaintiff, Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) in the pending case SMUG v. Lively.
Project Manager, Columbia Global Freedom of Expression
Columbia Global Freedom of Expression