German courts breached German newspaper Bild’s right to freedom of expression when they banned further publication of an article about former Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schröder in 2005, the European Court of Human Rights held last week.
The case concerned an article that repeated doubts, raised by the leader of the opposition, that Schröder had called early elections in order to secure his controversial appointment as chairman of the supervisory board of a German-Russian gas consortium. Schröder had helped negotiate a deal on the construction of a gas pipeline from Russia whilst in office.
The German courts ruled that the allegation was defamatory and, although it had been made by the leader of the opposition, the media could not reprint the allegation unless they took full responsibility for its truthfulness and obtained a response from the former Chancellor.
With the help of leading lawyers Heather Rogers QC and Jessica Simor QC, MLDI intervened in the case, proposing five principles that should govern similar cases. Agreeing with MLDI’s submissions, the European Court considered among others that the article contributed to a debate of general interest related to Schröder’s conduct as Chancellor and his controversial appointment shortly thereafter, which was not part of his private life. The European Court also held that Bild was not required to systematically verify every comment made by one politician about another, or to include elements in favour of Schröder in its reporting. According to the European Court, the punishment of a journalist for assisting in the dissemination of statements made by another person would seriously hamper the contribution of the press to the debate on matters of public interest.
The ECHR judgment can be read here. MLDI is grateful for the assistance of Heather Rogers QC and Jessica Simor QC in this case.
Women journalists who inspire us
Threats and violence against women journalists endanger important democratic values, including freedom of expression and the right to information. Despite significant risks, women continue to investigate abuses of power—and we applaud those who are laying the groundwork for a better future. Whether covering instability wrought by war or how corruption impacts local farmers, every journalist […]
We’re recruiting: Legal Officer
About Media Defence Media Defence is a charity that helps media to defend their rights. We support independent media, journalists and citizen journalists who are under legal threat by making sure that lawyers are available to defend them. We engage in strategic litigation to improve the regulatory environment for media freedom, make grants to organisations […]
Les lois sur les “fake news” sont-elles le meilleur moyen de lutter contre la désinformation?
En décembre 2021, la Grèce a rejoint la liste croissante des pays qui légifèrent contre les “fausses nouvelles” (ou « fake news » en anglais). La modification du code pénal vise à poursuivre les citoyens grecs qui diffusent de fausses informations pendant la pandémie de COVID-19. Tout citoyen diffusant de fausses informations sur la santé publique risque […]