20 June 2011

On 19 April 2011, the European Court of Human Rights found a violation of Art.10 of the European Convention on Human Rights in the case of Bulgarian journalists Kasabova against Bulgaria. Ms. Kasabova was represented by the Head of the AIP Legal Team Alexander Kashumov and the case was supported by Open Society Justice Initiative. The journalist was convicted in 2001 for defamation following her investigative reporting on wrongdoings and even possible corruption in the process of the admission of students in high schools in the city of Burgas. Alongside the firm conclusion of the Court that the sanctions imposed were disproportionate, it also held that:

It is also true that the national courts apparently did not pay heed to certain other factors that were equally relevant in that regard. For instance, it seems that they did not take into account the fact that the applicant had included the gist of the complainants’ side of the story in her text. Nor did they sufficiently appreciate that at the time when the applicant had been researching her article, the results of the internal inspection carried out by the Ministry of Education and Science, which could have served as a reliable source of information, had not been made public, in spite of the fact that they had been ready for almost two months (see paragraph 11 above). That lack of publicity shows, on the one hand, the difficulty in obtaining reliable information on the issue and, on the other hand, the media’s vital role of “public watchdog” in relation to such matters. It also highlights the public interest to publish information about the issue and about the authorities’ reaction to it. Indeed, the lack of any contemporaneous official information, coupled with the uncontested existence of numerous irregularities in the admission of students, could reasonably have prompted the applicant to report on anything that was available, including information which was uncorroborated …(§ 62).