The ECHR judgment of 09 February 2017 in the case of Selmani and Others v. Macedonia (application no. 67259/14).
In 2014, the applicants were assisted in preparing the application. Subsequently, the application was also communicated to Macedonia.
In the case, the complaint on the forced removal of applicants who are journalists reporting on parliamentary debates, from the parliamentary press gallery to the security forces, and the lack of an oral hearing in the court's consideration of the case of removing the applicants from the parliamentary press gallery was successfully considered. The case involved violations of the requirements of Article 6, Article 10 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
The applicants were journalists who covered parliamentary debates, during which riots were triggered by a group of members of parliament who forced the security forces to intervene in the situation. When the applicants refused to obey the order to clean the gallery, they were forcibly withdrawn from there. The Constitutional Court, without holding an oral hearing, found that the security service decided that the removal of journalists was necessary for their own safety.
In the conventional proceedings, the applicants complained under Article 6 of the Convention that there was no oral hearing before the Constitutional Court and, referring to Article 10 of the Convention, for their compulsory removal from the Parliament Gallery.
ISSUES OF LAW
Concerning compliance with Article 6 of the Convention.
(a) Applicability of Article 6 of the Convention. Despite the absence of objection on the part of the respondent State, the European Court of Human Rights ("the Court") considers it necessary to examine the applicability of Article 6 of the Convention. Domestic legislation recognized the right of accredited journalists to report from the parliamentary gallery. This reporting was necessary for the applicants to carry out their professional duties and inform the public. In the circumstances, the Court considered that the right to report from the parliamentary gallery, which pertained to the freedom of expression of the applicants, was civil law for the purposes of Article 6 of the Convention.
(b) Merits. The applicants' case was examined by the Constitutional Court acting as the first and only instance court. His conclusions regarding the necessity and proportionality of the contentious measure were based on factual issues. Although the removal of applicants from the parliamentary gallery as such was not contested by the parties, the decision of the Constitutional Court was based on facts that the applicants contested and had significance for the outcome of the case. These issues were neither technical nor purely legal. Consequently, the applicants had the right to an oral hearing, and the Constitutional Court did not give any reason why he decided that such a hearing was not necessary.
The violation of the requirements of Article 6 of the Convention (unanimously) was committed.
Concerning compliance with Article 10 of the Convention (the question of observance of the right to freedom of expression). The case is subject to compulsory removal of journalists from the gallery for the press in the parliament. The case involved a violation of the requirements of Article 10 of the Convention.
The central question was whether the controversial intervention was necessary in a democratic society. Riots in the parliamentary chamber and the way authorities dealt with them were issues of legitimate public interest. The mass media, therefore, had the task of disseminating information about the event, and the public had the right to receive this information.
The media play a key role in providing information on how the authorities act with respect to public demonstrations and containment of unrest. Any attempt to remove journalists from the site of demonstrations must be rigorously tested.
This principle was all the more applicable since journalists exercised their right to inform the public about the behavior of elected representatives in parliament and about how the authorities coped with the riots arising during parliamentary sessions.
During the riots in the parliament, the applicants were passive witnesses who simply carried out their work and watched the events. They did not represent any threat to public security, order in parliament or other interests. Their removal had negative consequences, because it immediately prevented them from receiving direct and direct knowledge based on their personal experience of the events unfolding in the parliament. This knowledge was an important element in the applicants' exercise of the functions of journalists, and the public should not be deprived of the information they provided.
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 EUR 5,000 each to each applicant in respect of non-pecuniary damage.