The applicant company, the owner and publisher of the magazine “News”, published articles about series of letter bombs (explosive devices sent via post) sent to politicians and other public figures. The articles included pictures of the suspect in the investigation, Mr. B., accompanied by comments that named him as the “perpetrator” of the offences for which he was arrested. Mr. B brought proceedings against the applicant company, requesting that the applicant shall be prohibited from publishing Mr. B’s picture in connection with reports on any criminal proceedings against Mr. B, irrespective of the accompanying text. The courts satisfied the request and ordered preliminary injunctions.
The applicant company complained that the prohibitions to publish the photographs of Mr. B in connection with criminal proceeding reports had breached its right to freedom of expression.
As the prohibition to continue publishing the photographs of Mr. B was not necessary to protect his private life, the Court found a violation of the applicant’s freedom of expression.
The Court firstly stated that the freedom of expression protects not only the substance of ideas and information but also the form in which they are conveyed. The Court further found that:
The interference was prescribed by law and had a legitimate aim – protection of Mr. B.’s right to a fair trial and his right to private life.
However, the prohibition was not necessary in a democratic society:
- The duty of press to inform society on all matters of public interest extends to the reporting and commenting on court proceedings. Nevertheless, the press shall not overstep certain bounds in respect of the rights of others or of the proper administration of justice;
- Such comments must not take form of statements which might prejudice the chances of a person receiving a fair trial or to undermine the confidence of the public in the proper administration of justice;
- The Court emphasized that attacks to public figures were of public interest;
- Mr. B. was a well-known right-wing extremist who had entered the public scene already a long time ago;
- No photographs of private nature were published;
- The national courts had not given good reasons also to why and how the prohibition of publication of the suspect’s photographs was necessary for the protection of his right to fair trial.