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Media Defence Intervenes at ECtHR in Case of UK Journalist Arrested Under Harassment Law

Media Defence Intervenes at ECtHR in Case of UK Journalist Arrested Under Harassment Law

Media Defence has filed a third party intervention at the ECtHR in the case of Pal v UK. Ms Pal was arrested and prosecuted under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, after she published a news article online and posted several Tweets about an individual who subsequently complained to the police. She was arrested, handcuffed, and brought from Birmingham to a police station in London where she was detained before being released on bail. Criminal proceedings were initiated and subsequently discontinued. Her claim against the police for breach of her article 10 rights was dismissed.

The intervention focuses on the nature of journalistic activity, the use of criminal laws in that context, and the protections from criminal sanction that journalists should be afforded for doing their job. The intervention notes the tendency in some states in the Council of Europe region towards criminalising basic acts of journalism, and the effect this is having on the ability of the press to report freely. In particular it notes that laws designed to deal with a particular type of wrongdoing should not be misapplied in a way that criminalises legitimate journalistic activity.

Media Defence’s Legal Director Pádraig Hughes said, “Journalists should be able to report without heavy handed state interference. When law enforcement agencies are called on to assess journalistic activity, they should factor into that assessment the important role journalists play in society”.

You can find the intervention here.

Media Defence was granted leave to intervene in this case by the ECtHR on condition it did not refer to the facts or merits of the case.

For further information on this case please contact Pádraig Hughes at padraig.hughes@mediadefence.org

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