Law, Justice and Journalism

Posts Tagged ‘freedom of expression’

Conference, 3 May 2013: Obstacles to Free Speech and the Safety of Journalists

In Events, Journalism, Law on April 16, 2013 at 9:42 am

Date/time: Friday 3 May 2013, 11.00 – 16.30

Location: City University London, City Law School, Northampton Square campus, St John Street, EC1R 0JD, London, United Kingdom

Organisers: City Law School and the Centre for Law, Justice and Journalism

The conference aims at celebrating the World Press Freedom Day by addressing some of the most topical issues affecting the protection of journalists through internationally established standards. The event stems from City’s commitment to the implementation of the UNESCO-steered UN Inter-Agency Action Plan for the Safety of Journalists 2013-2014. Issues considered will include the scope and effectiveness of extant international guarantees securing personal safety and freedom of expression for media workers in conflict and non-conflict zones, problems of compliance by States with duties arising under international human rights and humanitarian law, and potential strategies for further enforcement.

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Geoffrey Robertson QC, Doughty Street Chambers
  • Professor Bill Bowring, Birkbeck College, University of London; Field Court Chambers; European Lawyers for Democracy and Human Rights
  • Nathalie Losekoot, Senior Programme Officer (Europe), ARTICLE 19
  • Professor Jacqueline Harrison, University of Sheffield; Chair, Centre for Freedom of the Media
  • Dr. Damian Carney, Principal Lecturer, University of Portsmouth School of Law
  • Merris Amos, Senior Lecturer, Queen Mary University of London
  • Jim Boumelha, President, International Federation of Journalists
  • Dr. Carmen Draghici, Senior Lecturer, The City Law School, City University London

The conference will be of interest to academics, media NGO representatives and practitioners specialising in international law, civil liberties and human rights law, international humanitarian law, and media law.

The event is free of charge. A lunch buffet will be offered to all participants. To register please contact Dr. Carmen Draghici at by 30 April 2013.

Comment: ECtHR decision in Pirate Bay case – Neij and Sunde Kolisoppi v. Sweden

In Comment, Law on March 15, 2013 at 12:39 pm

By Professor Lorna Woods

The European Court of Human Rights declared the Pirate Bay claim for freedom of expression inadmissible as being manifestly ill-founded [summary, PDF].  It follows the case earlier this year of Ashby Donald (Appl. nr. 36769/08 judgment 10th January 2013) and while it follows much of the reasoning in Ashby Donald, the court’s decision here carries some unusual points worth noting.

Ashby Donald and the Pirate Bay case both take place in a digital context in that they both relate to use of the Internet.  Ashby Donald was noteworthy as it seems to accept that speech infringing copyright can in principle claim protection.

This might seem good news for Pirate Bay, but the terms of Ashby Donald recognised the need to protect copyright, meaning freedom of expression by no means automatically trumps copyright protection.  It certainly does not appear to be a pirate’s charter, as is re-affirmed by the admissibility decision in Pirate Bay: Neij and Sunde Kolisoppi v. Sweden (Appl. nr. 40397/12, decision 13th March 2013).

The applicants were both involved in the running of the website “The Pirate Bay”, one of the world’s largest file sharing services on the Internet.  They were charged with complicity to commit crimes in violation of the Copyright Act. Subsequently, several entertainment companies brought private claims within the proceedings.

In April 2009, the Stockholm District Court sentenced them to one year’s imprisonment and held them, together with the other defendants, jointly liable for damages.  The applicants complained that the finding of complicity had violated their freedom of expression; they should not be held liable for others’ use of their service.  Their claim was very broad.  The Court summarised it thus:

“According to the applicants, Article 10 of the Convention enshrines the right to offer an automatic service of transferring unprotected material between users, according to basic principles of communication on Internet, and within the information society. In their view, Article 10 of the Convention protects the right to arrange a service on the Internet which can be used for both legal and illegal purposes, without the persons responsible for the service being convicted for acts committed by the people using the service. In this connection, they referred to international frameworks, expressing a far-reaching right to receive and provide information between Internet users.”

While the Court eventually rejected the claim as manifestly ill-founded, its reasoning might suggest that to some extent accepts this broad-reaching right exists.  It started by recognising the importance of Internet, but linked to public sphere (e.g. news) raising the question of the extent to which the Internet is special in this regard.

The Court reaffirmed that “Article 10 applies not only to the content of the information but also to the means of transmission or reception since any restriction imposed on the means necessarily interferes with the right to receive and impart information” – but without considering who it restricted and whose right to expression is affected.

The Court then further blurs this point: “the applicants put in place the means for others to impart and receive information within the meaning of Article 10 of the Convention. The Court considers that the actions taken by the applicants are afforded protection under Article 10 § 1 of the Convention and, consequently, the applicants’ convictions interfered with their right to freedom of expression”.

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Violation of Article 10 in Yildirim v. Turkey (no. 3111/10)

In Cases, Law on December 20, 2012 at 8:18 am

By Professor Lorna Woods

Yildirim concerned the blocking by the Turkish authorities of all access to personal sites on the “” network, with the aim of prohibiting access to one such site in particular.

The order for blocking arose as one site had insulted the memory of Atatürk and the Turkish Telecommunications and Electronic Data Authority (TİB) (responsible for implementing the order) advised the court issuing the order that for technical reasons TİB would need to block entirely in order to block the offending site. Therefore, the court granted that request.

The blocking order had the effect of preventing the applicant from accessing his own site, which to publish his own academic work as well as his opinion and comments on various matters and which had no connection to the site concerned. Yıldırım claimed that this measure breached his right to freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas.

The case was communicated to the Grand Chamber on 31.01.2011 and the Court handed down its judgment on 18th December 2012 [PDF] and it found a violation of Article 10 ECHR. The Court reiterated established case law that Article 10 applied not only to the content of information but also to the means of disseminating it.

The Court noted the significance of the Internet, which in the ECtHR’s view has become one of the principal means of exercising the right to freedom of expression and information. While the blocking order was based on a court order itself based in Turkish law, which empowers a court to order the blocking of access to content published on the Internet if there were sufficient reasons to suspect that the content gave rise to a criminal offence, the ECtHR found that the relevant Turkish law did not authorize the blocking of an entire online platform, such as Google Sites.

The Turkish law did not therefore satisfy the requirement (under Article 10(2) ECHR) that any law restricting freedom of expression must be formulated with sufficient precision to enable individuals to regulate their conduct. Further, there was no evidence that Google had been informed of the illegal content or that it had refused to comply with an interim measure concerning the offending site, suggesting a lack of proportionality.

The law also failed to provide sufficient safeguards against potential abuses. The ECtHR reiterated that a restriction on access to a source of information would only be compatible with the ECHR if a strict legal framework was in place both regulating the scope of a ban and affording the guarantee of judicial review to prevent possible abuses.  Here, the court had simply allowed too much latitude to TİB.

Clearly, the handing down of sweeping blocking orders which include much legitimate content as well as potentially illegitimate material, constitutes a severe violation of freedom of expression.  While the ECtHR has recognised the significance of the Internet, this judgment does not mean that no blocking orders can comply with Article 10 ECHR.

The ECtHR’s reasoning is based on the facts of the case where there was an extreme response to a particular problem.  What this case does make clear is that laws seeking to enable blocking orders will require careful drafting, so that any orders are as targeted as possible and that there must be effective scrutiny of the need for such orders.

Professor Lorna Woods: Freedom of Expression and the Internet

In Events, Journalism, Law, Media regulation, Resources on November 19, 2012 at 9:01 am
Professor Lorna Woods, Associate Dean for Research and Professor of Law, City University Law School, gave a talk at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (IALs) on 14 November 2012, which discussed ‘Freedom of the Expression and the Internet’.

Her slides are available below:
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