Damages awarded against a journalist for posting several articles on his blog criticising another journalist: breach of freedom of expression

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On 12 January 2021 the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights in the case of Gheorghe-Florin Popescu v. Romania.

The case concerned the domestic authorities’ decision to order the applicant, a journalist, to pay
damages for having published five blog posts criticising L.B., another journalist who was the editor-inchief of a newspaper in the Desteptarea media group and producer for a local television channel
belonging to the same group.
The Court found, in particular, that the domestic courts had failed to give relevant and sufficient
reasons to justify the interference with the applicant’s right to freedom of expression. The standards
applied by the domestic courts had not been compatible with the principles embodied in Article 10 of
the Convention, including, in particular, contribution to a public-interest debate, whether the person
concerned was well-known and his or her prior conduct, the content, form and consequences of the
publication, and the severity of the sanction imposed. Nor had they based their decisions on an
acceptable assessment of the relevant facts.
It followed that the interference with the applicant’s right to freedom of expression had not been
“necessary in a democratic society” and that there had been a violation of Article 10 of the Convention.

The decision can be found here.

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