Lindon, Otchakovsky-Laurens and July v France: ECHR 22 Oct 2007

ECHR (Grand Chamber) The court emphasised the public interest in protecting the reputation of those in public life. Regardless of the forcefulness of political struggles, it is legitimate to try to ensure that those debating politics abide by a minimum degree of moderation and propriety: ‘Freedom of expression constitutes one of the essential foundations of a democratic society and one of the basic conditions for its progress and for each individual’s self-fulfilment. Subject to paragraph 2 of Article 10, it is applicable not only to ‘information’ or ‘ideas’ that are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive or as a matter of indifference, but also to those that offend, shock or disturb. Such are the demands of pluralism, tolerance and broadmindedness without which there is no ‘democratic society’. As set forth in Article 10, this freedom is subject to exceptions, which must, however, be construed strictly, and the need for any restrictions must be established convincingly.
The adjective ‘necessary’, within the meaning of Article 10 ss 2, implies the existence of a ‘pressing social need’. The Contracting States have a certain margin of appreciation in assessing whether such a need exists, but it goes hand in hand with European supervision, embracing both the legislation and the decisions applying it, even those given by an independent court. The Court is therefore empowered to give the final ruling on whether a ‘restriction’ is reconcilable with freedom of expression as protected by Article 10.
The Court’s task, in exercising its supervisory jurisdiction, is not to take the place of the competent national authorities but rather to review under Article 10 the decisions they delivered pursuant to their power of appreciation. This does not mean that the supervision is limited to ascertaining whether the respondent State exercised its discretion reasonably, carefully and in good faith; what the Court has to do is to look at the interference complained of in the light of the case as a whole and determine whether the reasons adduced by the national authorities to justify it are ‘relevant and sufficient’ and whether it was ‘proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued’. In doing so, the Court has to satisfy itself that the national authorities applied standards which were in conformity with the principles embodied in Article 10 and, moreover, that they relied on an acceptable assessment of the relevant facts.’
‘The classification of a statement as a fact or as a value judgement is a matter which in the first place falls within the margin of appreciation of the national authorities, in particular the domestic courts. However, even where a statement amounts to a value judgment, there must exist a sufficient factual basis to support it, failing which it will be excessive.’
21279/02, [2007] ECHR 836
Bailii
European Convention on Human Rights
Cited by:
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CitedMGN Limited v United Kingdom ECHR 18-Jan-2011
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These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 04 February 2021; Ref: scu.259966