European Court of Human Rights
European Court of Human Rights

Germany: Court rejects media image ban complaint

Human rights judges have ruled that Germany was right to Ban the publication of identifiable images of criminal defendant in murder trial.

The complaint was brought by two media companies, the publishing house Axel Springer SE, registered in Berlin, and the broadcasting company RTL Television GmbH (“RTL”), registered in Cologne.

They protested at a judicial order banning the publication of images in which the defendant — accused of killing his parents in June 2010 — could be identified.

In its 21 September decision, in the case of Axel Springer SE and RTL Television GmbH v. Germany (application no. 51405/12), the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

no violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The court concluded that the national judge had carefully balanced the opposing interests.

The order had been proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued, namely to protect the personality rights of the defendant — who was not a public figure — during his trial, in the course of which he was to be presumed innocent until proved guilty. The order had not been a particularly severe restriction on reporting; taking images as such had not been limited.

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