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

Mladina D.D. Ljubljana v. Slovenia  | 2014

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

Victory for freedom of expression

Headline of Mladina, following the European court’s judgment, April 2014

Background

In June 2005 the magazine Mladina published an article harshly criticising a politician for his contribution to a debate in parliament.

The debate had been about the introduction of civil partnerships for same-sex couples. The politician had said that homosexuals were generally undesirable – whether as children, same-sex couples or parents.

The Mladina article described the politician as a “cerebral bankrupt”.

The politician sued the magazine for using these words, saying that they had offended him. The Slovenian courts found in favour of the politician, ordering the magazine to pay him 2,921 euros in damages. The magazine also had to publish part of the judgment.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

The European court said that limits on speech were wider when criticising a politician than a private person – especially when the politician had made controversial public remarks. The article had not been a gratuitous personal attack on the parliamentarian. It had been a response to his own public remarks, where he had sought to ridicule homosexuals. In the circumstances, the rulings of the Slovenian courts had been disproportionate, violating the magazine’s right to free speech.

We hope that today's decision of the European Court of Human Rights will affect the case law in the direction of opening the field of expression of critical opinions and positions.

Matija Stepišnik, President of the Slovene Journalists Association, quoted by Mladina

Follow-up

To help protect free speech in Slovenia, the Constitutional Court changed its approach for deciding on similar cases by incorporating the case-law of the European court into its own case law. 

The magazine Mladina was awarded 2,921 euros in compensation, as well as legal costs.