CLOSE

Landmark European Court Judgment is Victory for Access to Information

Landmark European Court Judgment is Victory for Access to Information

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights, in a judgment published today, has recognised that a right of access to information is an important component of the right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The decision is a victory for journalists, bloggers and NGOs who rely on access to information held by the State to conduct investigations as part of their role as “public watchdogs”.

The case was brought by Magyar Helsinki Bizottság (the Hungarian Helsinki Committee) in the context of an investigation into the control exerted by the Hungarian police over the appointment of public defenders to defend individuals accused of committing criminal offences. The authorities refused to provide the Committee with information relating to the appointment of public defenders, and the Hungarian courts refused to order the police departments to provide that information.

The Grand Chamber found that in failing to provide information on an issue which was clearly in the public interest Hungary had violated the Committee’s right of access to information. The Grand Chamber’s decision is important in that it recognises that in the circumstances of the case Article 10 of the Convention could be interpreted as including a right of access to information.

In reaching its decision, the Grand Chamber emphasised the importance of ensuring the right of individual access to information held by the State in order to assist the public in forming an opinion on matters of general interest. Alinda Vermeer, Senior Legal Officer at MLDI, welcomed the decision and said “Today’s ruling is further confirmation that the right to information is an important component of the right to freedom of expression. This is a significant step towards more transparency and accountability in our societies.” The decision is likely to have significant consequences for future access to information cases, including the case of Kennedy and The Times v. United Kingdom in which MLDI acted as an intervener.

The Media Legal Defence Initiative coordinated a coalition of NGOs to act as interveners in the case to represent the interests of journalists, bloggers and NGOs.  The coalition included Article 19the Campaign for Freedom of Informationthe Access to Information Programme, and the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union.

For further analysis of the Court’s judgment see here.

MLDI would like to thank Richard Clayton QC and Christopher Knight for drafting the intervention, and Otto Volgenant, Prof. Dr. Dirk Voorhoof and Prof. Dr. Roger Mann for their valuable input.

Recent News

Call for Consultants: Update of Training Materials on Freedom of Expression in South and Southeast Asia

Purpose of the consultancy contract This is a call for consultants to review and update eleven existing training modules on freedom of expression in South and Southeast Asia. Background Media Defence’s vision is a world where journalists no longer face legal challenges that threaten their ability to report freely and independently on issues of public […]

Read

Media Defence et l’Impact Lab pour l’Etat de droit de Stanford Law School saisissent la Cour de justice de la CEDEAO contre les coupures d’internet ordonnées par l’Etat sénégalais

Le recours au nom d’AfricTivistes et de deux journalistes sénégalais vise à obtenir des mesures provisoires pour empêcher de nouvelles coupures d’Internet   READ IN ENGLISH   Dakar, le 13 février 2024 – Media Defence et le Rule of Law Impact Lab de la Stanford Law School ont déposé un recours devant la Cour de justice […]

Read

Media Defence and SLS’s Rule of Law Impact Lab File Case Before ECOWAS Court Challenging Senegal Internet Shutdowns

Filing on behalf of AfricTivistes and Two Senegalese Journalists Seeks Interim Measures to Prevent Internet Shutdowns.   READ IN FRENCH   Dakar, February 13, 2024 – Media Defence and the Rule of Law Impact Lab at Stanford Law School have filed a lawsuit before the Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West […]

Read