Ukrainian Journalist Detained and her Equipment Seized by Rome Police

Update: 21 Oct 2019 State replied
Year 23 Jan 2018 Country Italy Category Harassment and intimidation of journalists Source of threat State Partner EFJ/IFJ , Index Alert level Level 2
23 Jan 2018 Italy Harassment and intimidation of journalists State EFJ/IFJ , Index Level 2

On 25 December 2017 Ukrainian journalist Anastasia Tovt, who works for online newspaper Strana.ua, was detained by the Roman police, subjected to a full-body search and then escorted to the airport. Her two phones and a laptop were also seized by the police. As of 23 January 2018 the equipment still has not been returned. Tovt was on an editiorial assignment to film a performance by feminist group Femen. The arrest happened during the performance, when activist Alisa Vinogradova stole the doll representing baby Jesus from the Vatican’s nativity scene. Vinogradova was arrested for injury to a public official, religious offenses, attempted theft and obscene acts in a public place. Tovt was also detained by the Roman police, allegedly as accessory to Vinogradova. According to Tovt, several other foreign journalists also filmed the incident. Tovt believes her equipment was seized due to the footage she had filmed during an interview with Vinogradova the day before the performance. This is also why, she believes, she was detained by the police for 12 hours and subjected to a full-body search. The police reportedly didn’t take her press credentials into account. Tovt says no translation of documents was provided, and her rights to a phone call and to speak to a lawyer were denied. After 12 hours of detention, Tovt was escorted back to the airport by the Roman police.

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20 March 2018

On 20 March 2018, the European Court of Human Rights issued its Grand chamber judgment on Mehmet Altan’s case. The Court found there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention for Human Rights. With regards to article 5 §1, according to the Court findings, “Mr Altan’s continued pre-trial detention, after the Constitutional Court’s clear and unambiguous judgment of 11 January 2018 (…), could not be regarded as ‘lawful’ ”. The Court held that “for another court to call into question the powers conferred on a constitutional court to give final and binding judgments on individual applications ran counter to the fundamental principles of the rule of law and legal certainty, which (…) were the cornerstones of the guarantees against arbitrariness”. Under Article 10, the Court held in particular that “there was no reason to reach a different conclusion from that of the Constitutional Court, which had found that Mr Altan’s initial and continued pre-trial detention, following his expression of his opinions, constituted a severe measure that could not be regarded as a necessary and proportionate interference in a democratic society”. The Court pointed out in particular that “criticism of governments and publication of information regarded by a country’s leaders as endangering national interests should not attract criminal charges for particularly serious offences such as belonging to or assisting a terrorist organisation, attempting to overthrow the government or the constitutional order or disseminating terrorist propaganda”.

20 March 2018

On 20 March 2018, the European Court of Human Rights issued its Grand chamber judgment on Şahin Alpay’s case. The Court found there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention for Human Rights. With regards to article 5 §1, according to the Court findings, “Mr Alpay’s continued pre-trial detention, after the Constitutional Court’s clear and unambiguous judgment of 11 January 2018 (…), could not be regarded as ‘lawful’ ”. The Court held that “for another court to call into question the powers conferred on a constitutional court to give final and binding judgments on individual applications ran counter to the fundamental principles of the rule of law and legal certainty, which (…) were the cornerstones of the guarantees against arbitrariness”. Under Article 46 (binding force and execution of judgments) of the Convention, the Court held that it was incumbent on the respondent State to ensure the termination of Mr Alpay’s pre-tria detention at the earliest possible date. Under Article 10, the Court held in particular that “there was no reason to reach a different conclusion from that of the Constitutional Court, which had found that Mr Alpay’s initial and continued pre-trial detention, following his expression of his opinions, constituted a severe measure that could not be regarded as a necessary and proportionate interference in a democratic society”. The Court pointed out in particular that “criticism of governments and publication of information regarded by a country’s leaders as endangering national interests should not attract criminal charges for particularly serious offences such as belonging to or assisting a terrorist organisation, attempting to overthrow the government or the constitutional order or disseminating terrorist propaganda”.
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