Euroopa Inimõiguste Kohus
26.04.1995

Facts

The first applicant, Mr. Prager, a journalist, published in a magazine owned by the second applicant, Mr. Oberschlick, a report which criticized the attitudes of nine of the judges sitting in Austria\'s criminal courts. One of these judges requested the Regional Court to institute criminal proceedings for defamation against the applicants. Mr. Prager was convicted of defamation and sentenced to pay fines (a criminal punishment) and costs of the proceedings. Mr. Oberschlick meanwhile had to pay damages to one of the judges and was declared liable for the payment of the fine and the costs. The court further ordered confiscation of the remaining copies of the magazine.

Complaint

The applicants claimed that the convictions violated their right to freedom of expression.

Court's ruling

The Court ruled that the national courts had not violated the rights of the applicants, as they had publicly accused the judges without sufficient arguments.

The Court saw no reason to doubt that the decisions in issue were prescribed by law and intended to protect the reputation of others. Also the punishment imposed on the applicants was necessary in democratic society:

  • The applicants had accused the judges of having broken the law or having breached their professional obligations.
  • It was done without sufficient factual basis and without research undertaken.
  • The applicants had thus undermined public confidence in the integrity of the judiciary as a whole.

It was necessary for the state to protect such confidence against destructive and essentially unfounded attacks of the applicants.

In the present case the applicants could not invoke their good faith or compliance with the ethics of journalism.