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ECtHR held that removal of journalists from parliamentary press gallery violated Article 10

Selmani and Ors v The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Application No. 67259/14)

On the 9th February 2017, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) found that the forcible removal of journalists from a parliamentary press gallery was a violation of their right to freedom of expression.

In December 2012 in the Parliament of Macedonia, a number of opposition MPs approached the Speaker to noisily protest against the procedure adopted in approving the State Budget.  The actions of these MPs escalated and resulted in their removal together with the removal of the Speaker from Parliament by security officers.  During the episode, journalists were also removed from the Parliament’s gallery.

The Constitutional Court of Macedonia dismissed a complaint from six of the journalists that their removal violated their right to freedom of expression.  While the Court agreed that the removal was an interference with the right to freedom of expression, the interference was necessary due to potentially dangerous events which threatened the safety of those present.  The Court added that the removal did not prevent the journalists from carrying out their professional duties because they could follow a live stream of the chamber.

The ECtHR found that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia failed to establish that the removal of the journalists was ‘necessary in a democratic society.’  Accordingly, the applicant journalists’ rights under Article 10 had been violated.  In considering whether the response was supported by relevant and sufficient reasons and was proportionate to the legitimate aim being pursued the ECtHR took into account the following factors:

·        Whether removal was based on a reasonable assessment of the facts: there was no indication that the applicants’ lives and physical integrity were endangered.
·        Whether the applicants were able to report on the incident in parliament: their immediate removal had immediate adverse effects and prevented them from obtaining first-hand information.
·        The applicants’ conduct: they were passive observers and did not pose a threat.

Read Inforrm article here.

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