Available in Russian
Authors: Iliya Shablinsky, Inna Peshina
Keywords: freedom of expression; honor and dignity of an official; rights of journalists; statements of fact; The European Court of Human Rights; value judgements
The confrontation between the free media and the state, represented by its institutions, is a problem not only in modern Russia, but also in other countries. Somewhere this confrontation is long-term, systemic in nature, somewhere there are isolated, but nevertheless, acute conflicts. The judgments of the European Court of Human Rights on the complaints brought forth by journalists and the media on violations of article 10 of the Convention are not only a remarkable illustration of such conflicts, but also a reminder for the national courts to ensure the freedom of the media in accordance with domestic legislation and international obligations assumed by the States. In the case of Skudayeva v. Russia, we can see a clearly defined legal position of the ECtHR on the application of article 10 of the Convention regarding the freedom of expression of opinion of a journalist, assessing the actions of the authorities. In its judgment, the European Court stressed that the national courts should seek a balance between the freedom of speech and the freedom of the media, on the one hand, and the right of a public person to the protection of their honor and dignity, on the other hand. The Court also recalled the importance of distinguishing between information on facts and the journalist’s value judgments in connection with the possibility of further evaluation of the journalist’s statements in terms of reliability. The court pointed to the need for increased tolerance of public persons to criticism, stressing that the activities of officials can and should be criticized. The Court also noted that the restriction of the freedom of expression is permissible, but in all cases must be justified by the national courts in accordance with the principles and standards of article 10 of the Convention. In fact, the European Court has pointed out to national courts that it is unacceptable to prejudge the circumstances of a case in which a public person acts as a plaintiff, especially if he or she has public powers. In such disputes, the courts should be mindful of the role of the media in a democratic society, and if a journalist raised a socially significant issue by criticizing the authorities, the courts should side with him or her, despite the fact that the authorities might feel derogated.
About the authors: Inna Peshina – Senior lecturer, Faculty of Law, Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia; Iliya Shablinskiy – Doctor of Sciences in Law, Professor, Faculty of Law, Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia.
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