(Application no. 5380/07)
1 December 2009
This judgment will become final in the circumstances set out in Article 44 § 2 of the Convention. It may be subject to editorial revision.
In the case of Karsai v. Hungary,
The European Court of Human Rights (Second Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:
Ireneu Cabral Barreto,
Kristina Pardalos, judges,
and Sally Dollé, Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 10 November 2009,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
“In B.T.'s charming words, two anti-Semitic laws 'fell' within Teleki's two premierships. ... If we are counting, let us be accurate: not two, but 12 (twelve) anti-Semitic laws are linked to Teleki's name. ...”
The applicant also noted that:
“... [I]t is rare that those supporting [the project of] Teleki's statue are trying to defend their position using overtly anti-Semitic arguments.”
“In the Parliamentary Library's PRESSDOC database, there are hundreds of articles and studies praising Pál Teleki, written in a sometimes uninhibited, sometimes more moderate style. In 1994-95, the extremely anti-Semitic and irredentist Hunnia Brochures devoted a 15-episode series to the ex-PM. The amateur historian [B.T.] wrote several articles2 trumpeting the praise of Pál Teleki – of the devout Catholic, the enthusiastic Scouts officer – who in his view was an anti-Nazi 'Realpolitiker'.
These articles and studies remained largely without reaction. We are only a few who take in our hands, at least from time to time, the products of the right-wing or extreme right-wing press, which, perhaps encouraged by this [indifference], keep lying, keep slandering, keep inciting against and bashing the Jews (zsidóznak), in a more and more uninhibited way.”
I. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 10 OF THE CONVENTION
“1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. ...
2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society ... for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, ...”
1. Whether there has been an interference
2. “Prescribed by law”
3. Legitimate aim
4. Necessary in a democratic society
a. The applicant's arguments
b. The Government's arguments
c. The Court's assessment
i. General principles
ii. Application of the above principles to the present case
It therefore considers that this publication deserves the high level of protection granted to the press in view of its functions. In this connection the Court refers to the summary of its established case-law on press freedom in the case of Scharsach and News Verlagsgesellschaft (cited above, § 30). It reiterates that there is little scope under Article 10 § 2 for restrictions on political speech or on the debate of questions of public interest (see, among many other authorities, Feldek, cited above, § 74). The Court is also mindful of the fact that the plaintiff B.T. was the author of articles widely published in the popular daily press as part of that debate. He thereby voluntarily exposed himself to public criticism. The Court notes that the applicant's disagreement with Mr B.T.'s views was formulated in indirect terms. However, it considers that even harsh criticism in the present context would be protected by Article 10 of the Convention, whether expressed directly or indirectly.
There has accordingly been a violation of Article 10 of the Convention.
II. APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 41 OF THE CONVENTION
“If the Court finds that there has been a violation of the Convention or the Protocols thereto, and if the internal law of the High Contracting Party concerned allows only partial reparation to be made, the Court shall, if necessary, afford just satisfaction to the injured party.”
B. Costs and expenses
C. Default interest
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT UNANIMOUSLY
(a) that the respondent State is to pay the applicant, within three months from the date on which the judgment becomes final in accordance with Article 44 § 2 of the Convention, the following amounts, to be converted into Hungarian forints at the rate applicable at the date of settlement:
(i) EUR 4,000 (four thousand euros), plus any tax that may be chargeable, in respect of non-pecuniary damage,
(ii) EUR 2,310 (two thousand three hundred and ten euros), plus any tax that may be chargeable to the applicant, in respect of costs and expenses;
(b) that from the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until settlement simple interest shall be payable on the above amounts at a rate equal to the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank during the default period plus three percentage points.
Done in English, and notified in writing on 1 December 2009, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
Sally Dollé Françoise Tulkens
1 Hungarian prime minister (1920 to 1921; 1939 to 1941). Under both his governments, various anti-Semitic laws were enacted. Under his second premiership, Hungary joined the Tripartite Pact. His government cooperated with Nazi Germany in the early stages of World War II.
2 This reference to Mr B.T.’s articles was accompanied by footnotes listing Mr B.T.’s publications about Pál Teleki in a large-circulation daily paper.
1 280 euros (EUR)
2 EUR 180