The International Forum for Responsible Media blog has posted details of an interesting judgement this week by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights, which centres on the rights of journalists to protect confidential sources.
In the case of Sanoma Uitgevers BV v Netherlands, the court held unanimously that the requirement of the applicant to provide material to the public prosecutor was not prescribed by law and violated Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The case refers to journalists from a car magazine who had attended an illegal car race and taken photographs in 2002. The authorities had demanded the journalists hand over their images to police.
Following ongoing legal disputes, which led to the material being surrendered and then later returned to the magazine, the case came before the European Court of Human Rights. The magazine challenged the legalities surrounding the disclosure of information to the police that would have revealed their journalists’ sources. In its original judgement, dated 2009, the court found that “the information contained on the CD-ROM had been relevant and capable of identifying the perpetrators of other crimes investigated by the police and the authorities had only used that information for those purposes”.
But following the referral of the case to the Grand Chamber this week, which included a media intervention by bodies including the Guardian News and Media and the Committee to Protect Journalists, the court held that Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights had been violated and awarded the claimants 35,000 Euros for costs and expenses.