Wednesday, July 05, 2017

European Court Upholds Defamation Judgment For False Charges of Anti-Muslim Statements

In Case of Medzlis Islamske Zajednice Brcko and Others v. Bosnia and Herzegovina, (ECHR, June 27, 2017), the European Court of Human Rights Grand Chamber by a vote of 11-6 held that the free expression rights of a Muslim religious community and three non-governmental organizations representing ethnic Bosnian Muslims were not infringed by a defamation judgment entered against them.  The suit grew out of a letter sent to authorities of the Brčko District's multi-ethnic radio station objecting to the appointment of "Ms. M.S." as director of the station.  Among other things, the letter claimed that M.S.:
(1) stated in an interview ... commenting on the destruction of mosques in Brčko, that Muslims were not a people ..., that they did not possess culture and that, accordingly, destroying mosques could not be seen as destruction of cultural monuments,
(2) as an employee of the BD radio demonstratively tore to pieces on the radio’s premises ... the calendar showing the schedule of religious services during the month of Ramadan...
These statements were inaccurate.  The majority concluded:
the authorities of the respondent State struck a fair balance between the applicants’ interest in free speech, on the one hand, and M.S.’s interest in protection of her reputation on the other hand, thus acting within their margin of appreciation....
The Court's press release on the decision summarizes the Court's reasoning.