MLDI intervenes in European Court case on media’s right to access and report from defamation proceedings

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Posted on: 
9 Mar 2018

We have filed a third-party intervention before the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Gleb Vyacheslavovich Paykachev v. Russia. In this case, the public and the media were excluded from attending defamation proceedings that had been brought by a police officer against a news website.

“This case concerns the fundamental concept of ‘open justice,’” says Jonathan McCully, MLDI’s Senior Legal Officer, “the media’s ability to access and report from judicial proceedings is an indispensable aspect of ‘open justice.’ Not only does the media expose judicial proceedings to public scrutiny, they also contribute to wider public debate that can often surround such proceedings.”

The case has been brought to the European Court of Human Rights by a journalist, Mr. Paykachev, who was refused access to defamation proceedings that had been instituted by a police officer against a news website. The news website had been reporting on allegations that the police officer had severely beaten someone who had been involved in a quarrel with the officer's father. The Russian court granted a request from the officer’s legal representative to exclude the press and the public from the proceedings to protect information related to the officer’s personal and private life from being disseminated, such as his place of work, his place of residence, and his image. For this reason, Mr. Paykachev was refused access to the proceedings.

In his case before the European Court of Human Rights, Mr. Paykachev argues that the exclusion of the press from the proceedings was not necessary and proportionate. Accordingly, he argued that the exclusion violated his right to receive and impart information of great importance to the public.  

In our brief, we draw on international and comparative law to contend that denying media access to defamation proceedings will usually amount to a disproportionate restriction on the right to freedom of expression. In doing so, we highlight the importance of the media’s role as “public watchdog” in ensuring the public are informed about matters of public interest, including court proceedings. Furthermore, we submit that aspects of defamation proceedings justify even greater protection of the media’s right to access and report on such proceedings. “A public hearing is an essential feature of defamation cases,” says Jonathan McCully. “For instance, public vindication is a key outcome sought in these types of cases and, in modern societies, this is usually achieved through the media’s ability to report on such proceedings.”

Read the brief here.