Media Defence Logo

CLOSE

Strasbourg Court Finds Hungary Violated Journalists’ Right of Access to Parliament

Strasbourg Court Finds Hungary Violated Journalists’ Right of Access to Parliament

The ECtHR has held today that Hungary violated the Article 10 freedom of expression rights of six journalists who, in April 2016, were subject to an indefinite ban preventing them from entering the premises of Hungary’s Parliament to carry out their work. The ban was imposed by the Speaker of Parliament due to the journalists’ filming and reporting from certain areas within the building, in violation of a particular Ruling of the Speaker of the Parliament. Before this time, the journalists enjoyed regular access to the parliamentary premises and engaged in interviews with Members of Parliament. The ban was eventually lifted in September 2016.
Media Defence filed a third-party intervention at the European Court of Human Rights in this case, along with Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, OSSIGENO per l’informazione, Media Development Centre and Mass Media Defence Centre. The interveners’ brief emphasised the vital importance of parliamentary reporting and of facilitating free discussion about the activities of the legislature through the media. The interveners also sought to highlight the crucial importance of allowing journalists to report first-hand from parliament, the censorial nature of bans on journalists entering parliamentary premises and press galleries, and parliamentarians’ limited right to privacy in parliament.

Although confronted with important questions on when and in what context restrictions on access to parliament can be imposed, the Court decided the case on narrow grounds, considering it “more appropriate to focus its review on whether the restriction on the applicants’ right to freedom of expression was accompanied by effective and adequate safeguards against abuse”. In finding a violation of the applicants’ right to freedom of expression the court noted that the ban lacked “adequate procedural safeguards”.

While the Court’s finding that, on this occasion, the ban violated the right to freedom of expression of the journalists is welcome, the narrow way this decision was reached is concerning. In particular given the public interest aspect inherent in journalists reporting on parliaments and other public decision-making bodies. The issues raised by this case are of increasing public importance considering the alarming trend of barriers being imposed on the ability of the media to cover democracy around the world, including recently in the US and UK.

Although positive in vindicating the six Hungarian journalists’ right to report from Parliament, this judgment is a missed opportunity to condemn a legislative body using its discretionary powers to prevent the media from carrying out their important role in reporting from such a body.
Please click here for the link to ECtHR judgment.

 

Click here for the link to our brief.

 

We would like to thank Can Yeginsu and Anthony Jones for their assistance drafting the intervention, and Roger Mann and Anna-Katharina Kornrumpf for their valuable input. 

Recent News

Media Defence Launches New Summary Modules on Digital Rights and Freedom of Expression Online

As part of our Digital Rights Advocates Project, Media Defence announces its new Summary Modules on Digital Rights and Freedom of Expression Online developed in collaboration with ALT Advisory. These modules provide an overview of relevant principles and case law for lawyers in sub-Saharan Africa interested in litigating digital rights cases. The modules are a […]

Read

Digital Rights Advocates: Interview with Zambian Lawyer Michelle Mwiinga

Welcome to the Digital Rights Advocates Blog Series, where we hear from lawyers litigating digital rights in sub-Saharan Africa. Digital rights have become indispensable for people around the world to exercise and enjoy their fundamental rights. Independent media is increasingly moving online – from established newspapers and television channels to bloggers and human rights activists […]

Read

2020 in Review: The Effects of Covid-19 on Freedom of Expression Worldwide

2020 has been an extraordinary year, with the world facing unprecedented challenges due to COVID-19. People moved their lives almost entirely online, even as they took to the streets to protest in staggering numbers. We have seen a rise in the number of governments clamping down on freedom of speech, ostensibly to protect citizens from […]

Read