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!
November 23-30, 2016
Lopes v. Estado de São Paulo
Decision Date: August 17, 2016
The Brazilian Supreme Court held that tattoos are a form of expression and that the Military decision to prohibit officers from having tattoos is unconstitutional. The appellant, Mr. Lopes, had been excluded from becoming a military officer because of a tribal tattoo on his leg. According to the Brazilian Supreme Court, tattoos are forms of expression and personality, and only where a candidate has a tattoo that expresses hate or is somehow incompatible with his public service can he be refused the Officer position.
Pritchard v. Van Nes
Decision Date: April 20, 2016
The Supreme Court of British Columbia found a Facebook user liable not only for defamatory posts she made, but also for the republication of those posts through Facebook's sharing structure, and for the posts made by her Facebook "friends" in reaction to her own posts. The Facebook user, Ms. Van Nes, had posted on Facebook that Mr. Pritchard, a local schoolteacher, was a "creep" and implied that he was a pedophile. Her posts subsequently "went viral", and many of Ms. Van Nes' "friends" responded to them with more explicitly defamatory remarks of their own. In finding Ms. Van Nes liable for third-party defamatory material, the Court reasoned that Ms. Van Nes knew that her friends were posting defamatory comments but failed to immediately delete these comments. Instead, she "added fuel to the fire” by posting additional comments and replies. Therefore, she had to share responsibility for the friends’ comments.
Petronet v. Indian Petro Group
Decision Date: April 13, 2009
The High Court of New Delhi dismissed a request by Petronet LNG Ltd. to restrain the news provider Indian Petro Group from publishing allegedly confidential and/or misleading information on its business practices. The Court carried out a balancing exercise between the right to confidentiality and the “countervailing public interest favoring disclosure." The Court dismissed Petronet’s privacy claim and held that although the company was entitled to confidentiality of information if it could prove potential adverse commercial consequences, the Defendant's publications were protected speech and could not be restrained by an injunction.
Petitioner v. Secretaria de la Defensa Nacional (Secretary of National Defense) 901/ 04
Decision Date: November 4, 2004
The Information Commission (IFAI) held that the Secretariat of National Defence (SND) must release the names and ranks of military personnel detained in a military prison camp during the 1970s, since the disclosure does not affect the life, security or health of former detainees and is related to activities in the public interest. Additionally, IFAI held that SND must provide information on any civilians who were also interned at the camp. SND had argued that such information does not exist since the Mexican constitution prohibits civilian detention in a military base. IFAI clarified that because past investigations had revealed that many civilians were held in secret prisons, SND had to disclose any information it held on the matter or otherwise prove that such documents did not exist.
This case analysis was contributed by Right2Info.org.
Richmond Newspapers v. Virginia Pharmacy
Decision Date: July 2, 1980
The U.S. Supreme Court established for the first time that the right of the public and the press to attend criminal trials is guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The Court stressed that a judge cannot summarily order the trial closed unless there is an overriding interest to do so. The Court also noted that the First Amendment guarantees the right of assembly in public places such as courthouses.
Thank you and see you next week!
Program Officer, Columbia Global Freedom of Expression