Below, please find the latest case additions to the Columbia Global Freedom of Expression legal database.
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November 23-29, 2015
Belg., Nederlandstalige rechtbank van eerste aanleg Brussel, 2015/57/C
Decision Date: November 9, 2015
In this case, the Court of First Instance in Brussels ordered Facebook Inc., Facebook Ireland Ltd., and Facebook Belgium SPRL to stop the registration of cookies and social plugins on the browsers of Belgian Internet users who do not have Facebook accounts. Facebook was given 48 hours within which to comply with the order after the Privacy Commission served Facebook, or it would face a fine of 250,000 EUR per day for non-compliance.
Indonesia v. The Nine Maluku Activists
Decision Date: January 22, 2015
Nine political activists were sentenced to prison for treason by a district court in Ambon on January 22, 2015 for participating in a peaceful march in which their South Moluccan RMS flag was presented.
Indonesia v. Johan Teterissa
Decision Date: April 4, 2008
Johan Teterissa was sentenced to life imprisonment on April 4, 2008 after being accused for treason for leading a peaceful demonstration against the then-President of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The sentence was reduced to 15 years after an appeal.
Schrems v. Data Protection Commissioner
Decision Date: October 6, 2015
In this case the European Court of Justice struck down the transatlantic U.S.-EU Safe Harbor agreement that had been in place for 15 years and enabled companies to transfer data from Europe to the United States. U.S. companies could self-certify that they would comply with EU data protection standards in order to allow for the transfer of European data to the United States. The Court found that European data was not sufficiently protected in the United States and invalidated the decision that created the agreement. It was held that even if the U.S. companies involved were taking adequate protection measures, U.S. public authorities are not subject to the Safe Harbor guidelines and therefore European citizens’ data and privacy was at risk to U.S. government surveillance.
Tusalp v. Turkey
Decision Date: May 25, 2012
From December 2005 to May 2006, the Turkish daily newspaper Birgün published two articles written by journalist and columnist Erbil Tusalp in which he criticized the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Among other things, Tusalp accused him of "lying about matters from national income to inflation to the budget" and granting immunity to his friends who were facing corruption charges. In his second article, he alleged Erdogan of having psychological problems with hostile attitude towards academia, journalists, and opposition parties. In 2006, the Prime Minister brought civil actions against Tusalp and the publishing company before the Ankara Civil Court of First Instance on the grounds that the remarks stated in the articles amounted to an attack on his personal rights. The court ordered the defendants to jointly pay compensation in the amount of 5,000 Turkish liras plus interest for each published article. The Court of Cessation later refused Tusalp's request for hearing on both judgments.
In 2008, Tusalp lodged two separate applications before the European Court of Human Rights, arguing that the civil judgments impermissibly interfered with his right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Court held that the issued civil judgments were in violation of Article 10 because Tusalp's remarks, while maybe considered offensive or inelegant, were value judgments based on particular facts or events. It emphasized, however, that an offensive language may "fall outside the protection of freedom of expression if it amounts to wanton denigration, for example where the sole intent of the offensive statement is to insult." Here, the Court concluded that remarks contained in the articles were merely a gratuitous personal attack against the Prime Minister.
VanderSloot v. Mother Jones
Decision Date: October 6, 2015
In this case the seventh Judicial District Court of the State of Idaho dismissed a defamation suit brought by a billionaire political donor, Frank VanderSloot, against the magazine Mother Jones. The Court dismissed the case on the grounds that VanderSloot had failed to prove that the allegation made by the magazine about him were false and statements of opinion relating to matters of public concern that can not be proven to have any false connotations are protected by the first amendment.
The Case of Land Rights Petitioner Vu Thi Hai (Vietnam)
Decision Date: September 28, 2015
On June 9, 2015, Vu Thi Hai along with other land rights petitioners gathered in front of Vietnam's National Assembly building in Hanoi in order to hand over her petition to lawmakers. Security officers later arrested her with some other petitioners. Hai was charged with causing public disorder under Article 245 of the country’s Penal Code. The prosecutor alleged that she had displayed protest banners outside the government offices from March to June 2015.
On September 28, 2015, in a closed-door trial, the People’s Court of Hanoi sentenced Hai to 18 months imprisonment for causing public disorder.
The Case of Blogger Hong Le Tho (Vietnam)
Decision Date: November 14, 2014
On November 29, 2014, the government of Vietnam arrested Hong Lee Tho, a prominent writer, journalist, and self-blogger. He was charged with "abusing freedom and democracy to infringe upon the interests of the state" under Article 258 of the Penal Code for operating his independent blog. A conviction under Article 258 carries maximum of seven years in prison.
Tho primarily focused on addressing pressing social and political issues in the country, including his criticism of bilateral agreements with the neighboring country China. The government alleged that his blog contained "online articles with bad content and false information that discredit and create distrust among people about state agencies, social agencies and citizens."
On February 11, 2015, Tho was placed under house arrest due to his health conditions.
Project Manager, Columbia Global Freedom of Expression
Columbia Global Freedom of Expression