Below, please find the latest case additions to the Columbia Global Freedom of Expression legal database.
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June 28 - July 5, 2016
Grillo v. Auler
Decision Date: May 5, 2016
The Curitiba Civil Court of Brazil granted an injunction ordering the immediate removal of a blog by a journalist who accused a Federal Marshall of engaging in illegal acts and ordered the journalist to refrain from republishing the allegations on pain of a penalty. The Court found that the journalist’s blog contained serious accusations that harmed the Marshall’s reputation on multiple occasions without providing evidence. The Court found that the blog was particularly damaging in light of the Marshall’s position on the investigative committee of a highly publicized corruption scandal in Brazil.
Guseva v. Bulgaria
Decision Date: February 17, 2015
The European Court of Human Rights found a violation of the right to access of information of an animal rights activist who was denied an information request concerning public statistics on stray animals held by the office of the mayor of Sofia. The Court noted that like the press, non-governmental organizations, whose activities concern public interest, are social “watchdogs,” which warrant “similar protection under the Convention to that afforded to the press” and therefore the lack of compliance was not “prescribed by law.”
Mukong v. Cameroon
Decision Date: May 21, 1994
The Human Rights Committee (HRC) found that the Cameroonian Government had violated, among other rights, the right to freedom of expression of Albert Mukong, a writer, journalist and opponent of the one-party system in Cameroon. The HRC found that the State's need to safeguard national unity could not justify Mukong's arrest, detention and subjection to inhumane and degrading treatment, and that protecting and strengthening national unity cannot be achieved by muzzling advocacy for multi-party democracy and human rights.
Jane Doe 464533 v. D. (N.)
Decision Date: January 12, 2016
In response to the increasing number of “cyber-bullying” cases, the Canadian Courts recognized a new type of tort, non-consensual distribution of intimate images, in this novel case. The Defendant was found liable for damages after he posted a sexually explicit video of the Plaintiff online without her consent. The Court also found breaches of the torts of breach of confidence and intentional infliction of mental distress on the ground that “One who gives publicity to a matter concerning the private life of another is subject to liability for invasion of the other’s privacy, if the matter publicized or the act of publication (a) would be highly offensive to a reasonable person, and (b) is not of legitimate concern to the public.”
Journalists Association v. Legislative Assembly
Decision Date: March 21, 2014
Costa Rica’s Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional a law that permitted the Legislative Assembly to impose secrecy on its debates over lifting immunity (desafuero) from the President, Vice President, members of the Executive or Judiciary, Legislators, or Ambassadors. The Constitutional Chamber held that as a general rule imposing secrecy on such debates constituted a violation of the principles of transparency and disclosure that should govern legislative action, especially in matters involving the exercise of political functions. Furthermore, the Court found that such general rules of confidentiality and secrecy violated the fundamental rights of access to information, freedom of information, and freedom of expression.
Public Ministry v. Castel-Branco and Mbanze
Decision Date: September 15, 2015
The District Court of Kampfumo in Mozambique, dismissed criminal defamation charges against an economist and a newspaper editor who criticized the President of Mozambique on Facebook and in a newspaper. The Court examined the “offensive” elements of the speech and, emphasizing that political speech was essential to a healthy democratic society, found that the language was protected, especially considering the President’s role as a public figure. The Court also found that the economist’s right to freedom of expression trumped the President’s right to privacy and the protection of his reputation.
The Case of the Kyaw Printing House
Decision Date: June 14, 2016
The owner of a printing house and four of his associates were prosecuted for printing a calendar that mentioned “Rohingya”, the name of an ethnic minority in Myanmar, and were charged with causing fear or alarm to the public. On trial, the owner was acquitted but his associates were sentenced to one year in prison.
Caragea v. Romania
Decision Date: December 8, 2015
The European Court of Human Rights, after considering several factors in balancing the competing rights of privacy and freedom of expression, found no violation of the right to reputation guaranteed by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights of Caragea, a CEO of a large private company. Caragea alleged that an article damaged his reputation as well as his company’s financial situation. The Court found that as a public figure Caragea must tolerate a greater level of criticism than a private individual; that the article at issue “plainly” concerned a matter of public interest since his company was under criminal investigation for improper conduct and mismanagement; and that the potential adverse consequences that Caragea could suffer did not “attain the level of gravity justifying a restriction on the right to freedom of expression.”
The Case of Model Merve Buyuksarac
Decision Date: May 31, 2016
The Istanbul Court of First Instance handed down a 14 month suspended prison sentence to Merve Buyuksarac, a model and former Miss Turkey, for insulting the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Buyuksarac shared a satirical poem on Instagram, which did not refer to Erdoğan by name but alluded to a corruption scandal involving his family. The court agreed with Erdoğan's lawyer that Buyuksarac's post on Instagram could not be considered criticism but instead was an attack on Erdoğan's personal rights.
The Case of Barış İnce
Decision Date: March 8, 2016
The Istanbul Court of First Instance sentenced Barış İnce, a journalist and editor of the Turkish leftist newspaper Birgün, to 21 months in prison for insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in an article about his previous conviction for defaming Erdoğan. In the article, İnce published the relevant parts of his defense in the 2015 trial.
Project Manager, Columbia Global Freedom of Expression
Columbia Global Freedom of Expression