ECHR: when freedom of expression (still) faces censorship04/02/2021
A court injunction forcing a media company to remove illegal recordings from its website does not infrige freedom of expression.
In a January 14 ruling, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) resolved a long-running conflict between freedom of expression rights and privacy in the dispute between Mediapart and the French government.
Originally, the facts concern the publication of illegal recordings of Ms. Bettancourt, published by Mediapart on its website, between May 2009 and May 2010.
In a decision dated July 4, 2013, the Versailles Court of Appeal ordered the withdrawal of the disputed publications with an injunction to stop publishing all or part of the illicit recordings made at Ms. Bettencourt’s home.
On January 15, 2015, the Court of Cassation had affirmed that the violation of Ms. Bettencourt’s privacy, « which does not legitimate public information » was constituted because the recordings published had been published at Ms. Bettencourt’s home, without her knowledge and in full awareness of their illicit origin.
Before the ECHR, the journalists claimed that this court injuction obliging them to remove the publication of these extracts from the Mediapart newspaper’s website violated their right to freedom of expression, in support of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
While the French government conceded that this conviction, provided for under French law, constituted interference with their right to freedom of expression, the Court stated that it « pursued the legitimate aim of protecting the reputation or rights of others.
The Court noted that “the publications in question came from recordings made without the person’s knowledge » and that « such a process, regardless of the elements constituting its repression under French law, undoubtedly constituted a sufficiently serious intrusion to bring into play their right to privacy under Article 8 of the Convention ».
In ruling that France had not violated the principles of freedom of expression by censoring 70 press articles, the ECHR recalled that « journalists who exercise their freedom of expression have duties and responsibilities ». It then recalled « that paragraph 2 of Article 10 does not guarantee freedom of expression without any restriction, even when it is a question of reporting in the press on serious matters of public interest ».
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By the IP/IT team of UGGC Law Firm
Source: European Court of Human Rights