Reference: Application No. 32558/03
Court: European Court of Human Rights
Judge: Bratza (President), Casadevall, Bonello, Traja, Pavlovschi, Šikuta & Hirvelä JJ
Date of judgment: 12 Jun 2007
Summary: Libel - Accuracy - Public Interest - Article 10
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National Moldovan newspaper Flux published an article pertaining to allegations the Head of the Dept for Combating Organised Crime and Corruption, N.A. made on television accusing V.M., President of a Moldovan political party, of corruption and, through mafia connections, of protecting several companies allegedly involved in criminal activities. VM sued in defamation, arguing that a large number of NA’s statements which Flux had published were untrue, but with the title of the arguments not being complained of.
By a final judgment the Court of Appeal found that the statements were not defamatory inter alia as Flux had simply reproduced NA’s statements. However, the article’s title was found to be defamatory and the newspaper was ordered to apologise and pay a significant sum in damages.
Whether the domestic decision entailed an interference with the newspaper’s right to freedom of expression necessary in a democratic society.
The Court found that the domestic courts’ ruling that a statement about which the Defendant in the proceedings had not even complained was defamatory was sufficient in itself for the Court to find a violation in this case. Moreover, the impugned statement amounted to a statement of facts which appeared to be accurate. Indeed NA accused VM of protecting a criminal gang and the parties did not dispute that such an accusation was made. In the circumstances, the fact that the impugned statement was made by a journalist within a debate on an issue of public interest, that the claimant was a high-ranking politician and having regard to the language used, the interference with the newspaper’s freedom of expression did not correspond to a pressing social need and thus was not necessary in a democratic society.
This decision was the second ruling within less than three weeks made against Moldova, in which the state was held to have violated Flux newspaper’s Convention rights. The decision is another in the “reportage” sphere.