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Greece: Media professionals win court victory after actress “insult” human rights dispute

Judges have ruled today that Greece violated the human rights of a journalist and a newspaper director, fined €30,000 after dismissing an actress for being “completely unknown.”

In its 19 January Chamber judgment in the case of Kapsis and Danikas v. Greece (application no. 52137/12) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights

The case concerned an award of damages of 30,000 euros (EUR) against the director of a daily newspaper (Kapsis) and a journalist (Danikas), jointly with the newspaper’s proprietor, for a press article describing as “completely unknown” an actress who had been appointed to an advisory board on subsidies awarded by the authority for theatres.

The court found in particular that the national authorities had not given relevant and sufficient grounds to justify the award against the journalists, taking the view that the sanction was not proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued (protection of the reputation or rights of others) and that the judgment did not meet a “pressing social need.”

The court found that the domestic courts had not placed the offending comments in the general context of the case in order to assess the intention of the two journalists, who had actually been quite favourable towards the actress’s appointment; she had been appointed to an essentially political position and should have expected her appointment to be subjected to close scrutiny by the press, even to harsh criticism; Kapsis and Danikas had been ordered to pay damages without any analysis of their financial situation, and such sanctions would inevitably discourage journalists from contributing to a public discussion on questions of interest to the wider community.

Just satisfaction (Article 41)

The court held that Greece was to pay the applicants 2,000 euros (EUR) each in respect of nonpecuniary damage and to pay Kapsis EUR 1,500 in respect of costs and expenses.

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