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 8 - 14, 2016
Ziembinski v. Poland (No. 2)
Decision Date: July 5, 2016
The European Court of Human Rights found a violation of the right to freedom of expression where an editor had been convicted of insult and fined for publishing a harsh and highly critical article about local officials. Maciej Ziembiński, the proprietor and editor-in-chief of a local weekly newspaper in Poland, had published an article that was critical of a plan to introduce quail farming in the Radomsko District, and which used the words "numbskull" and "dim-witted" among others to describe local officials who were not explicitly named in the article. Although the Court found that the interference was prescribed by law and pursued the legitimate aim of protecting the reputation of others, it concluded the fines were disproportionate. The Court’s majority viewed the article as a satirical piece that concerned a matter of legitimate public interest, and the remarks used by Mr. Ziembiński did not overstep the limits of acceptable exaggeration.
Bangura v. Loughborough University
Decision Date: May 19, 2016
The High Court of England and Wales refused a student’s application to re-open his case against Loughborough University for allegedly disclosing his personal data to the police in breach of contract and the Data Protection Act 1998. Bangura, a student at the university who had been accused and later exonerated of allegations of sexual assault and rape, argued that the university had breached the Data Protection Act by disclosing his personal details to the police without his consent. The Court held that the university’s disclosure fell within an exemption under the Data Protection Act for the processing of personal data for the purpose of the prevention or detection of a crime or the apprehension or prosecution of a criminal offender. Furthermore, it found that the university’s data protection policy had not created a contractual obligation on the university that could be enforced by Bangura.
Cohen v California
Decision Date: June 7, 1971
The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the decision of the California Court of Appeal, thereby overturning Cohen's conviction and 30 days' jail sentence for "disturbing the peace ... [by] offensive conduct" for wearing a jacket in a courthouse bearing the phrase “Fuck the Draft”. The Supreme Court found that the California law did not meet any of the narrow categories of speech that the state could restrict as unprotected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution. The state could not lawfully ban use of the profane four-letter word in general under the U.S. Constitution.
Redrup v. New York
Decision Date: May 8, 1967
The U.S. Supreme Court held that a state cannot suppress the distribution of "obscene" material because it would violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The Supreme Court reviewed three decisions made in lower courts, all concerning the distribution of allegedly obscene material. The Court’s reasoning was based on different concurring opinions given by the Justices. One found that the State’s power to suppress materials deemed obscene was to be narrowly construed and others subscribed to an "obscenity test" whereby materials would not be considered “obscene unless (a) the dominant theme of the material taken as a whole appeals to a prurient interest in sex; (b) the material is patently offensive because it affronts contemporary community standards relating to the description or representation of sexual matters; and (c) the material is utterly without redeeming social value.”
Thank you and see you next week!
Program Officer, Columbia Global Freedom of Expression