Back

Fairer television coverage for small political parties

TV Vest As and Rogaland Pensjonistparti v. Norway  | 2008

Fairer television coverage for small political parties

Background

The Pensioners’ Party was a small political party. It received almost no TV coverage and found it difficult to make people aware of its message. When it placed adverts on TV Vest, the company was fined for breaching the ban on political advertising on television.

TV Vest and the Pensioner’s Party applied to the European Court of Human Rights.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

The court found that small parties like the Pensioners’ Party received virtually no television coverage in the main news. In such circumstances, the ban on political advertisements put them at a disadvantage compared to the major parties, as they had no way of transmitting their message on TV. In this media environment, the ban on political advertising breached the right to freedom of expression. 

Follow-up

The statutes of the national public broadcaster were changed. It is now required to include smaller political parties in its editorial coverage.  Furthermore, a new television channel was created, which is dedicated to communicating political messages from a wide range of sources.

Additional information


Related examples

Excessive police operation against journalists leads to reforms to protect media sources

Four Belgian journalists were targeted by the police in a huge search and seizure operation aimed at identifying the source of leaked government information. The Strasbourg court ruled that the operation had been unjustified and disproportionate. The case influenced new legislation to improve protections for journalists and their sources.

Read more

Nurse compensated after being fired for whistleblowing

Brigitte Heinisch was a geriatric nurse. She claimed that practices in the old people’s home where she worked were putting patients at risk. After she made her allegations public, she was fired. Yet, the German courts found that her dismissal was lawful - so Mrs Heinisch took her case to Strasbourg. Her case was then re-opened and she won compensation.

Read more

Justice for man made to pay huge fine for publishing criticism of a public official

Zoran Lepojić wrote an article saying that a mayor had wasted public money. The mayor successfully brought defamation charges, and Mr Lepojić was fined more than 8 average monthly salaries. The Strasbourg court ruled that this had been unreasonable, violating Mr Lepojić’s right to free speech. The Supreme Court of Serbia took steps to protect freedom of expression in such circumstances.

Read more

Magazine made to pay damages for criticising politician’s homophobic behaviour

The magazine Mladina published an article criticising a politician for homophobic remarks in a parliamentary debate. The politician sued the magazine because he had been offended by its criticism. The Slovenian courts ruled against the magazine, ordering it to pay damages. The European court ruled this had violated the magazine’s rights – leading to reforms to protect free speech.

Read more

Justice for the victims of Soviet oppression

Klaus and Yuri Kiladze were eleven and nine years old when their father was killed by the Soviet authorities. Their mother was then sent to a gulag, their family apartment was seized and they were taken into abusive State custody. Decades later, a Georgian law was passed establishing a right to compensation for victims of Soviet oppression. Yet the national courts still denied them justice.

Read more

Greater protections for free speech after journalist sued for reporting on alleged political corruption

In July 2000 Ilnar Gorelishvili wrote an article about a politician who owned various expensive properties. She questioned how he had bought these whilst working in public service on a moderate salary. The politician sued her for defamation and won. The European court ruled that Georgian law had not properly protected Ms Gorelishvili’s right to give her opinion.

Read more

Reforms to protect free speech after journalists sued

Matti Paloaro and Pentti Eerikäinen were journalists. They reported on the prosecution of a businesswoman, who had abused public funds and was later sentenced to prison. The businesswoman sued the journalists, claiming they had invaded her privacy by publicising her prosecution. The businesswoman won in the Finnish courts – but the Strasbourg court ruled in favour of the journalists.

Read more

Journalist convicted for asking questions wins free speech case at European court

In a report on alleged corruption in Portuguese football, José Manuel Colaço Mestre asked questions to an interviewee about the dual role played by Mr Pinto de Costa, who was then both Chairman of FC Porto and President of the Portuguese Football League. Because of these questions, Mr Colaço Mestre and his employer were both found guilty of criminal defamation in the Portuguese courts.

Read more

Senator put in prison for criticising the government

Senator Miguel Castells wrote an article claiming that the government was failing to investigate a series of murders. He was convicted of insulting the government and sentenced to a year in prison. The European court ruled that his right to free speech had been violated. The Spanish Constitutional Court then developed its case law to provide greater protection to free speech in Spain.

Read more

Newspaper’s free speech victory leads to reforms

In 1988 the local newspaper Bladet Tromsø published claims by a government inspector alleging misconduct by certain seal hunters. The Norwegian courts found the newspaper liable for defamation, saying that it had relied too heavily on government reports. The Strasbourg court ruled that this violated the paper’s right to free speech – leading to reforms to protect freedom of expression.

Read more

Justice for animal rights campaigners who had pamphlets seized by police

Elina Goussev and Michael Marenk were protesting against the fur trade. Police searched their homes and seized campaign materials. The Strasbourg court ruled that this had breached their right to free speech, as the seizure had not been clearly justified by Finnish law. After the case had been submitted to the court, reforms were made to prevent arbitrary seizures.

Read more

Justice for man who was fined for writing an article

Isaak Grinberg wrote an opinion article criticising a local governor. The governor sued Mr Grinberg for defamation, making him pay a fine. The Strasbourg court ruled that Mr Grinberg had been punished for giving a value judgment about a public figure. This violated his right to free speech. Mr Grinberg was awarded €1,120 in compensation.

Read more

Greater protection for the media after journalist fined for refusing to reveal the identity of his source

Journalist William Goodwin was given leaked information about a company. The company wanted to sue the source of the leak - but Mr Goodwin refused to reveal their identity. The UK courts fined Mr Goodwin 5,000 pounds for contempt of court. The Strasbourg court ruled this had violated his right to receive and give out information.

Read more

Reforms to protect media freedom after a journalist was convicted for a report about extremists

Jens Jersild is a journalist. He was convicted for filming a news report in which extremists made racist remarks. The Strasbourg court found that convicting Mr Jersild for his work was disproportionate and violated his right to free speech. The case helped improve legal protections for media freedom in Denmark.

Read more

Legal challenge brings an end to the state monopoly on TV and radio

During the 1970s and 1980s, various Austrians wanted to set up local TV or radio stations. However, Austrian law banned them from doing so, as it gave the Austrian Broadcasting Company a monopoly. The Strasbourg court ruled that the ban was disproportionate and violated the right to free speech. The judgment led to the opening up of broadcasting regulations.

Read more

Reforms made after pensioner given unreasonable punishments

Sofija Tešić received a monthly pension equivalent to 170 euros. After she lost a defamation case, every month two-thirds of her pension was taken to pay off her debt – leaving her without money to pay for medication. The Strasbourg court ruled that this had been disproportionate. The Serbian courts changed their case law to limit defamation awards, and enforcement proceedings were also...

Read more

Reforms made after man convicted for waving a satirical placard

Hervé Eon waved a satirical sign at President Sarkozy. He was then charged with offending the President of France, a crime dating from the 19th Century. Mr Eon was convicted and given a suspended fine. The Strasbourg court ruled that this had breached Mr Eon’s right to free speech. The offence of insulting the President of France was abolished later that year.

Read more