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Media free expression in spotlight as judgements loom in complaints against Iceland and Poland

Journalists’ rights to free expression will be in the spotlight tomorrow (4 July), when Strasbourg judges announce their decisions in complaints against Iceland and Poland.

 

Halldórsson v. Iceland (no. 44322/13)

The applicant, Svavar Halldórsson, was born in 1970 and lives in Hafnarfjörður (Iceland). At the relevant time he worked as a journalist for the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service.

The case concerns his liability for defamation, resulting from three instances in which he reported on a loan which had been made from an Icelandic company to a shelf company based in Panama.

He reported that the loan had been written off by the Icelandic company, but that the Icelandic authorities believed that the proceeds had been divided between the owner of the company and two of his business partners. One of the partners filed defamation proceedings against Halldórsson and was ultimately successful in the Supreme Court.

Halldórsson was ordered to pay 300,000 Icelandic Krónur in damages, plus 1,000,000 Krónur in costs, and the implications about the claimant in Halldórsson’s news broadcasts were declared null and void.

Halldórsson complains that these obligations violated his rights under Article 10 (freedom of expression).

In particular, he claims that the interference with his right to freedom of expression did not have a legitimate aim and was not necessary in a democratic society.

 

Kącki v. Poland (no. 10947/11)

The applicant, Marcin Kącki, is a Polish national born who was born in 1976 and lives in Poznań (Poland).  Kącki is a journalist who was found criminally responsible for the defamation of a politician.

In December 2006, he published an interview in which a member of a political party describes her interactions with party officials. In particular, she describes how she was offered a paid position in the office of a Member of the European Parliament in exchange for sexual favours, but was later told that the position was given instead to the MEP’s daughter.

The MEP filed an indictment against Kącki, claiming that he should be made criminally liable for his allegations of nepotism. The courts ruled in the MEP’s favour, and Kącki was ordered to pay a fine to charity of 1,000 Polish zlotys, plus costs.

Kącki complains that the authorities failed to properly consider his rights under Article 10 (right to the freedom of expression) when making him criminally liable for publishing the interview.

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