Below, please find the latest case additions to the Columbia Global Freedom of Expression legal database. Please note that this will be our last update of 2016, as we will be off for the winter holidays until January 2017.
As always, we very much welcome your comments and feedback on the case analyses. If you have cases you wish to highlight or access to official court documents for our past analyses, please let us know!
We hope that you continue to find these emails to be a useful introduction to new and seminal jurisprudence from around the world.
December 5 - 20, 2016
Radio Twist v. Slovakia
Decision Date: December 19, 2016
The European Court of Human Rights held that a radio station could not be penalized for broadcasting a telephone conversation between public figures that someone obtained illegally. The Court ruled that it was never established that the radio station was responsible for making the recording or violated any laws in obtaining the telephone conversation. Furthermore, the Court stressed that the recording contained no false information and did not cause personal harm to the public figures’ reputation. On these grounds, the Court concluded that penalties imposed on the station violated its freedom of expression.
Mat Shuhaimi bin Shafiei v. Malaysia
Decision Date: November 25, 2016
The Malaysian Federal Court of Appeal declared a section of the Sedition Act unconstitutional because it criminalized publication of seditious material without requiring the person charged to possess the requisite criminal intent (mens rea)
. The Court reasoned that virtually every crime required a proof of criminal intent, and that without it the law in question created a strict liability crime, which disproportionately restricted freedom of expression enshrined in Malaysia's Federal Constitution.
Lee v. McArthur and Ashers Baking Company
Decision Date: October 24, 2016
The Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland upheld a lower court’s ruling that bakery owners’ freedom of religion and expression were legitimately limited when they were penalized for refusing to accept an order to make a customized cake with a logo of an LGBT organization and a message supporting the legalization of same-sex marriage. Relying on jurisprudence from the European Court of Human Rights and the UK Supreme Court, the Court held that the penalties were prescribed by law with the legitimate aim of prohibiting discrimination against a minority group. Furthermore, the Court clarified that simply being asked to print a logo on a cake was not compelled speech because doing so did not require the owners to promote or support gay marriage.
MT v. OY, HTG, MA & A. Ltd.
Decision Date: June 17, 2015
The General Assembly of Civil Chambers referenced the European Court of Justice Google v. Spain decision (otherwise known as the Right to be Forgotten) in a case involving non-digital mediums. A legal textbook republished a court judgment concerning MT, included her name, and a detailed description of a sexual assault against her. MT argued that the inclusion of her name in the textbook violated her privacy, caused her psychological harm, and damaged her reputation. The Assembly held that academic publications should not reveal personal data unless doing so was in the public’s best interest. Here, the Assembly reasoned that including the victim’s name served no public interest and thus ruled for the plaintiff, and awarded her non-pecuniary damages.
Dupuis v. France
Decision Date: June 7, 2007
The European Court of Human Rights held that journalists’ right to freedom of expression had been violated when they were convicted and fined for disseminating illegally obtained information about a public figure on a matter of public interest. The Court clarified that when illegally obtained information contributes to important public debates, the journalists’ right to divulge such information is protected provided they act in good faith, on accurate facts, and deliver reliable and precise information in fulfilling their vital role as public watchdogs. The Court reiterated the rights of others must be balanced against the interest of a democratic society in ensuring and maintaining a free press.
Petitioner v. Procuraduria General de la Republica (Public Prosecutor) 1005/04
Decision Date: December 7, 2004
The Mexican Information Commission held that the public prosecutor must release information on the internal and preliminary investigations regarding probable crimes of genocide committed by government forces against participants in student demonstrations. Assertions by the public prosecutor that the information did not exist were rejected and the Commission stated the information should be present in the government archives.
- This case analysis was contributed by Right2Info.org.
Zárate v. Federal Electoral Institute
Decision Date: June 25, 2004
The Superior Chamber of the Federal Electoral Tribunal of Mexico held that the right to receive information about the organization, work, financial resources and statutes of political parties is an element of the right to information, which, in turn, is a basis for the free exercise of other fundamental rights. Referencing international standards, the Tribunal stated that political parties should be subject to public scrutiny since they are political associations of citizens and receive considerable public funding. Accordingly, the Tribunal found that authorities have to guarantee access to the financial information of political parties, including the party leaders' monthly salaries and other benefits.
- This case analysis was contributed by Right2Info.org.
Happy Holidays and see you next year!
Program Officer, Columbia Global Freedom of Expression