The ECHR judgment of 28 March 2017 in the case of Marunic v. Croatia (application No. 51706/11).
In 2011, the applicant was assisted in preparing the application. Subsequently, the application was communicated to Croatia.
The applicant's complaint on the violation of the right to freedom of expression was successfully considered in the case. The case involved a violation of the requirements of Article 10 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
The applicant was the director of a municipal utility company. She was dismissed from her post in a disciplinary manner after she appeared in the media in her defense a week after publicly criticizing her work by the company chairman in an article in the press. The decision to dismiss was made on the grounds that it made statements in the press (concerning illegal collection of parking fees from land not belonging to the municipality), which detracted from the reputation of the company. The applicant's arguments regarding unlawful dismissal were rejected by the Supreme Court on the grounds that she presented the company in a very negative light and had to bring her comments about the company's activities to the attention of the competent authorities, and not to report them through the media.
In the conventional proceedings, the applicant complained of a violation of her right to freedom of expression.
ISSUES OF LAW
Concerning compliance with Article 10 of the Convention. The dismissal of the applicant in connection with her statements in the press constituted an interference with her right to freedom of expression. The intervention was provided by law and pursued the legitimate aim of protecting the reputation or rights of others. With regard to the question of whether it was necessary in a democratic society, while the obligation of loyalty, restraint and prudence tended to prevent workers from publicly criticizing the activities of their employers, the key importance in the applicant's case was that another official the company first resorted to the use of the media and publicly criticized the work of the applicant. Under these specific circumstances, the applicant could not be expected to remain silent and not defend her reputation in the same way. To require another would be to extend too far its commitment to loyalty. Accordingly, several criteria that are commonly applied in cases concerning freedom of expression in the workplace (see, for example, the Judgment of the Grand Chamber of the European Court in Guja v. Moldova, dated February 12, 2008, the complaint N 14277/04, "Information Bulletin on the Case-Law of the European Court of Human Rights" No. 105, Wojtas-Kaleta v. Poland, judgment of 16 July 2009, application no. 20436 / 02, "Fact sheet on the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights (No. 121), and Heinisch v. Germany, judgment of 21 July 2011, application no. 28274/08, "European Court of Human Rights case bulletin" No. 143 ), were either inapplicable or of limited value in the applicant's case. In particular, the arguments of the Government of the respondent State that the applicant had other effective but more secretive means of protecting her reputation, and she was motivated only by the desire to protect her image in the public eye, and not to inform the public about issues of general interest, to the point.
In fact, the applicant's statements in response to the Chairman's statements were not disproportionate and did not go beyond admissible criticism. In this regard, the Court notes that (i) the activities of the municipal public utility company were of general interest to the local community, (ii) the statement by the applicant that the company illegally collected funds for parking should not be regarded as a statement of fact, but as an appraisal judgment that had a sufficient factual basis, since it could reasonably be argued that the collection of parking fees on the land of another person was illegal, (iii) her statement was directly and (iv) her call for an audit and investigation by the investigative authorities did not imply that the company was involved in criminal activities, but was intended to eliminate the uncertainty about the way in which she managed the company. In such circumstances, interference with the applicant's freedom of expression in the form of dismissal in a disciplinary manner was not necessary in a democratic society to protect the reputation and rights of the company.
In the case there was a violation of the requirements of Article 10 of the Convention (unanimously adopted).
In the application of Article 41 of the Convention. The Court awarded the applicant EUR 1,500 in respect of non-pecuniary damage. Compensation for pecuniary damage was not awarded, as the country's legislation allowed the resumption of proceedings in connection with the establishment of a violation.