Strasbourg protects right to satirise

Journalist's fine for humorous article violates Article 10

The European Court of Human Rights has held that judgments of the Vienna Regional Criminal Court and Court of Appeal that a journalist and publisher be fined for a satirical article violate their rights under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The article, published in Profil! magazine, was a humorous commentary on the Austrian nation’s reaction to an injury to a sportsman. It included a passage attributing various unkind views to a rival, although it made clear that he had “decided against” expressing them.

The Austrian courts had found the journalist and publisher guilty of defamation, contrary to the Criminal Code, and required them to pay costs and compensation. The European Court, however, held that the average reader would have understood the article in the satirical manner in which it was intended, and that the impugned passage was “within the limits of acceptable satirical comment in a democratic society.”

Click here for the 5RB case report and full judgment.