The ECHR found a violation of the requirements of Article 10 of the Convention.

Заголовок: The ECHR found a violation of the requirements of Article 10 of the Convention. Сведения: 2023-09-18 05:33:09

ECHR Ruling of July 27, 2021 in the case "NGO - Independent Communication Community v. Portugal" (Complaint No. 29856/13).

In 2013, the applicant company was assisted in the preparation of the complaint. Subsequently, the complaint was communicated to Portugal.

In the case, a complaint was successfully considered against compensation for damages caused by a television report on sexual violence against minors, which contained an erroneous allusion to a well-known politician, awarded as part of a civil libel lawsuit. The case involved a violation of the requirements of article 10 of the Convention.




The applicant organization, a television network and a media company, broadcast on its network on December 6 and 7, 2003, respectively, television reports on persons committing sexual violence against minors, mistakenly hinting in the reports that R.R., a well-known politician who worked as the regional Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, was involved in these events.. The source of the reports was an investigation report published on December 6, 2013. in the newspaper Expresso, the leading weekly newspaper in Portugal, and compiled by both the applicant organization and the said newspaper. On December 8, 2003, R.R. resigned. In the news report of the applicant organization that followed on the morning of January 9, 2004, it was mistakenly reported that R.R. had been detained and was being questioned by police officers. A few hours later, the applicant organization corrected its message. Based on the results of the submitted R.R. In a civil action, the applicant organization was found guilty of spreading false information and, by a decision of the Portuguese Supreme Court, was obliged to pay R.R. 50,000 euros as compensation for moral damage and 65,758 euros as compensation for material damage. Taking into account the amount of compensation for legal costs, the total amount of payment amounted to 145,988.28 euros.




Regarding compliance with article 10 of the Convention. The decision of the Portuguese Supreme Court to impose on the applicant organization the obligation to pay compensation to R.R. for the damage caused to its reputation was an "interference" in the exercise by the applicant organization of the right to freedom of expression, which was legitimate, and pursued the legitimate purpose of protecting the reputation or rights of others, namely R.R. Therefore, the main issue was whether the intervention was necessary in a democratic society.

(a) Whether the news reports contributed to the debate on issues of public interest and whether R.R. was a public figure. The contested statements were several opening prime-time reports in the daytime and evening news about the ongoing investigation of a network of persons suspected of sexual violence against minors in the Azores. Thus, the reports undoubtedly contained issues of public interest. R.R. He was a public figure both in his region in the Azores and throughout Portugal and at the time of the broadcast of the reports held a high political position.

(b) The method of obtaining information, the content, form and consequences of the statements complained of. The December news was based on various sources and was collected in a report compiled jointly by the applicant organization and the newspaper Expresso, while the facts circulated at that time had already been published in the newspaper. As for the January news, it was considered established that the source of the information was journalists working for the applicant organization.

Taking into account the content of the reports and the particularly negative importance attached to sexual crimes against children, allegations of involvement in such crimes could negatively affect the use of the right to respect for private life by the person concerned. In addition, although R.R. was not directly named in the December reports, his identity could easily be identified. Therefore, although the news reports were the result of a journalistic investigation conducted by the applicant organization and the Expresso newspaper, which were widely perceived by the public as reliable news sources, they could cause prejudice against R.R. As for the January news, despite the correction, the applicant organization admitted that false reports about the detention and interrogation of R.R. The police violated R.R.'s right to protect reputation and honor. In this regard, the Court considered that by mentioning R.R., the applicant organization acted irresponsibly, especially since it was aware of the widespread dissemination of news through the media both in Portugal and internationally. Consequently, there were compelling reasons to apply sanctions to the applicant organization for the dissemination of false information. However, the applicant organization reduced the damage caused to R.R.'s reputation both in volume and in time by correcting its mistake a few hours after the news was released. Moreover, although the Portuguese courts decided that it was still possible to find indications of R.R.'s potential involvement in the crimes in question on other online platforms, R.R. resumed his political activities shortly after the release of the report. He worked in the Portuguese Parliament for several years and is still a successful and active politician.

(c) The severity of the sanctions. Although it could not be concluded that R.R.'s reputation and honor had not suffered any damage, the European Court found it difficult to accept that the damage to R.R.'s reputation in the present case was so serious as to justify the amount of compensation recovered from the applicant organization. Such a sum, which was significant in comparison with other complaints against Portugal considered by the European Court, could also deprive the media of the desire to participate in disputes on issues of legitimate public interest and negatively affect freedom of expression and freedom of the press. Accordingly, this sanction was excessive in the circumstances of the present case.

In view of the above, the Court concluded that the interference with the applicant organization's right to freedom of expression was disproportionate and was not "necessary in a democratic society" within the meaning of article 10 of the Convention.




There was a violation of article 10 of the Convention in the case (adopted unanimously).




In the application of article 41 of the Convention. The European Court did not award any just compensation, since, in accordance with Portuguese law, the applicant organization could request the resumption of proceedings in a civil case in respect of which the European Court found violations.

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