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Reforms to protect free speech after journalist given prison sentence

Dălban v. Romania   | 1999

Reforms to protect free speech after journalist given prison sentence

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.

Opening words of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights - © Photo Cronica Romascana

Background

Ionel Dălban was a Romanian journalist. He ran a local weekly magazine, Cronica Romaşcană, which he used to publish an article about an alleged fraud carried out by a Senator and a head of a public company. Mr Dălban was convicted of libel, fined and given a prison sentence. Many newspapers described this as an attempt to intimidate the press.

Laws from the communist era continued to restrict freedom of speech after Romania became a democracy.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

The Strasbourg court ruled that Mr Dălban’s articles had concerned a matter of public interest, and that the conviction had violated his right to freedom of expression.

Follow-up

The case triggered reforms to protect free speech in Romania. Prison sentences were abolished as punishments for insult in 2002 and defamation in 2005; legal defences against defamation suits were also strengthened.

Insult and defamation were eventually completely decriminalised under Romanian law.