Romania Violated Journalist’s Freedom of Expression, Says European Court

The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday condemned Romania for failing to uphold freedom of expression in the case of a local journalist who was fined by a domestic court over a series of critical articles about another journalist in the north-eastern county of Bacau.

"The case concerned the domestic authorities' decision to order the applicant, a journalist, to pay damages for having published five blog posts criticising L.B., another journalist who was the editor-in chief of a newspaper in the Desteptarea media group and producer for a local television channel belonging to the same group," the ECHR said in a statement.

The posts were published by Gheorghe-Florin Popescu in 2011. The same year, L.B. brought civil proceedings before a court in Bacau, which ruled that two of the articles posted by Popescu lacked any factual basis when describing L.B. as morally responsible for a murder-suicide.

The Bacau court also established that Popescu had used vulgar and defamatory expressions that affected L.B.'s honour and reputation, and ordered him to compensate L.B. with the equivalent of 1,100 euros.

Popescu subsequently appealed against the verdict, but Romania's Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal as unfounded in 2013. The journalist then took his case to the ECHR.

More than seven years later, judges at the ECHR unanimously reached the conclusion that Romania breached Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which protects freedom of expression.

According to Tuesday's verdict, Romanian courts failed to make "a distinction between statements of facts and value judgments" when examining Popescu's criticism of L.B.

The verdict also said that Romanian courts ignored "the fact that the applicant was a...

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