May 5th, 2011 by James Goudie KC

In Kasabova v Bulgaria ECtHR has held that a heavy fine on a journalist for writing a defamatory newspaper article that referred to allegations of corruption in relation to school admissions breached ECHR Art 10.  The issue was as to the fair balance between protection of freedom of expression and protection of the reputation of those against whom allegations have been made.  The Court noted (para 56) that the article was reporting facts relating to alleged irregularities and corrupt practices in the admission of students to secondary schools, and observed that “There can be no doubt that this was a question of considerable public interest” and that “the publication of information about it formed an integral part of the task of the media in a democratic society”.  The Court further noted (para 57) that the individuals mentioned in the article were public officials, and observed that, as a rule, they are “subject to wider limits of acceptable criticism than private individuals”.  Even if the journalist had failed sufficiently to research her article before going to press, and thus failed to act as a responsible journalist, the sanction imposed on her was “disproportionate”, unnecessary and excessive.

James Goudie QC

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