IEF 16588

Verwijdering van journalisten van tribune tijdens parlementair debat is schending EVRM

EHRM 9 februari 2017, IEF 16588; IEFbe 2087; application no 67259/14 (Selmani e.a. tegen FYROM) Mediarecht. Uit het persbericht: Selmani c.s. zijn journalisten en zijn met geweld verwijderd van de tribune van het nationale parlement weer zij verslag deden van het parlementaire debat over de Rijks begroting voor 2013. Gedurende het debat hebben leden van de oppositie verstoringen veroorzaak en zijn verwijderd door de beveiligingsmedewerkers. Verzoekers zijn geaccrediteerde journalisten en weigerden de tribune, een voor journalisten toegewezen gebied, te verlaten en werden gedwongen verwijderd. Bij het Constitutioneel Hof klagen zij over het incident en klagen ze dat er geen mondelinge zitting was om feiten aan te vechten. Er was geen indicatie dat er gevaar was van de protesten buiten het parlement of van de journalisten, enkel van de verwijderde parlementsleden. Verwijdering van de journalisten was niet noodzakelijk noch te rechtvaardigen, dat is een inbreuk op artikel 10, vrijheid van meningsuiting. Dat er - ondanks verzoek daartoe - geen mondelinge behandeling is geweest en zonder reden te geven waarom die niet noodzakelijk was, is een schending van artikel 6 (right to a fair hearing).

 

5. The applicants were accredited journalists who were authorised to report from the national Parliament. On 24 December 2012 parliamentary proceedings were held on the Budget Act for 2013. The applicants, together with other journalists, were reporting from the Parliament gallery, which was situated above the plenary hall (“the chamber”) where members of parliament (MPs) were seated. The debate on the approval of the State budget attracted considerable public and media attention, owing to the conflict between opposition and ruling party MPs as to whether or not statutory procedure had been complied with. During the proceedings, opposition MPs approached the President of Parliament (“the Speaker”) and started creating noise by, inter alia, slapping his table. Soon thereafter, Parliament security officers entered the chamber. They pulled the Speaker out of the chamber and started forcibly removing the opposition MPs. At the same time, other security officers (four officers, according to the Government) entered the gallery and started removing the applicants and other journalists. The Government stated that the security officers had informed those in the gallery that they had to leave for security reasons. The applicants denied that the reasons for their removal had been explained to them. Whereas some journalists complied with those orders, the applicants refused to leave, as the situation in the chamber was escalating and they felt that the public had the right to be kept informed as to what was going on. However, the security officers forcibly removed the applicants from the gallery.
6. The Government submitted that according to official records (a copy of which was not provided) on that occasion the first applicant had forcibly removed the identification badge from one security officer and had injured him in his chest and leg. The applicants denied that they had injured any officer and submitted that no official document had been drawn up regarding the identity of the officer in question, the nature and severity of the injury or the alleged assailant. The Government further alleged that the applicants had been allowed to follow the events in the parliamentary chamber via a live broadcast in the Parliament’s press room and the adjacent hall. The applicants contested that there had been live stream while the ejection of the opposition MPs had been ongoing, given that the cameras had allegedly been turned against the walls.
7. At the same time, two opposing groups congregated in front of the Parliament building. According to the Government, several people were injured in those protests. No further information was provided.

13. (...) The intervention of the Parliament security officers and the removal of the applicants from the gallery had been neither “lawful” nor “necessary in a democratic society”. With regard to the lawfulness of the measures taken, the applicants argued that section 43 of the Act could not be interpreted as allowing the forcible removal of journalists from the gallery by Parliament security officers. (...)

84. Lastly, the Court notes that the parties submitted conflicting accounts as to whether the applicants had been able to follow the events in the chamber after their removal from the gallery. The Court recalls that in its judgment the Constitutional Court found that the journalists “were able to follow the live broadcast of the debate from other premises [the press centre, in a hall adjacent to the gallery]” and that the “plenary debate of the Parliament of 24 December 2012 was public and it was entirely broadcast live on national television and streamed on the Parliament website (see paragraph 14 above). When the debate was over, the video material was made available to the public on that website.” Although the Court does not have a basis to call into question these factual findings, they do not, as such, adequately convey in the Court’s view whether the applicants had been effectively able to view the ongoing foreseeable removal of opposition MPs by the Parliamentary security service which, as referred to above (see paragraph 75 above), was an issue of legitimate public concern. Furthermore, the applicants’ removal entailed immediate adverse effects that instantaneously prevented them from obtaining first-hand and direct knowledge based on their personal experience of the events unfolding in the chamber, and thus the unlimited context in which the authorities were handling them (see conversely, ibid, cited above, § 101). Those were important elements in the exercise of the applicants’ journalistic functions, which the public should not have been deprived of in the circumstances of the present case.

Photo: Vlatko Perkvoski