NMA Expresses Grave Concerns Over European Court of Human Rights Judgment

The News Media Association has expressed grave concerns over a European Court of Human Rights judgment which the NMA fears could set a precedent requiring publishers to remove lawful and accurate news articles from their websites.

The ECtHR judgment found that an Italian court order holding the editor of an online newspaper liable for failing to de-index an article about criminal proceedings did not breach Article 10 of the European Convention of European Rights.

Responding to the judgment, NMA legal, policy and regulatory affairs director Sayra Tekin said: “The judgment is deeply concerning for a number of reasons, not least because it may potentially set a precedent to require publishers to remove lawful and accurate articles.

“It is also worrying because the Court held that the relevance of the newspaper’s right to disseminate information decreased over the passage of time, compared to the data subject’s right to respect for his reputation.

“A fundamental part of the media’s role in our society is to keep an accurate record of important events and to make this available to the public through archives. This judgment rides roughshod over this function.  By eroding the integrity of news archives, it distorts historical accuracy and poses a grave threat to freedom of speech.”

In the case, the editor-in-chief of an online newspaper was held liable under civil law for continuing to publish on his newspaper’s website and not having de-indexed an article reporting the facts of a criminal case instituted against private individuals.

The editor-in-chief took the case to the ECtHR alleging the violation of his freedom of expression but the court said that Article 10 had not been violated.

Intervening in the case, the Media Lawyers Association had contended that online media archives played a fundamental role in protecting and developing the rights and values enshrined in Article 10 of the ECHR.

The erasure of accurate information from the record ran directly contrary to the values protected by Article 10 and amounted to press censorship. Accordingly, any attempt to erase such information had to be genuinely exceptional and only justifiable where strictly necessary, the MLA said.

The Media Legal Defence argued that the scope of the “right to be forgotten” should not include the right to secure the erasure or the anonymisation of newspaper articles containing the personal information of individuals.

In the MLD’s view, articles published by individuals or entities engaged in journalistic activities or by governments should not be de-listed.