April 9, 2018
The applicant, Alpha Doryforiki Tileorasi Anonymi Etairia, was a limited liability company based in Greece, and owner of the Greek television channel ALPHA.
The company alleged that its Article 10 rights had been infringed when it was fined for broadcasting three secretly filmed video recordings of a politician on television.
The videos were first shown on a programme called Jungle in January 2002 and then again three days later on another programme. They concerned a politician, AC, who was on a parliamentary committee on electronic gambling. The first video showed him entering a gambling arcade and playing on two machines. The other videos showed him being confronted with the first film.
The National Radio and Television Council in May 2002 found that the use of the cameras had not been in accordance with the law and fined the company 100,000 euros for each of the programmes. It also ordered it to show the content of its decision on the main news programme for three days.
The company’s lawyers argued during the Council’s hearing on the case that the use of the cameras had been justified given AC’s position. They also said that filming in that way had been an exception, which had been made necessary by the fact that no one would have believed the journalists’ allegations if the images had not been broadcast. The Supreme Administrative Court upheld the penalty on the company in April 2010.
Relying on Article 10 (freedom of expression) and Article 6(1) (right to a fair hearing within a reasonable time) of the ECHR, the company complained about the penalties imposed on it and the length of the proceedings.
The ECtHR noted that the Greek authorities had fully recognised that the case involved a conflict between the right to impart ideas and the right of others to protection of their private life, and had tried to carefully balance the competing rights.
As far as the second and third videos were concerned, the ECtHR found that the reasons given by the Greek authorities were “relevant” and “sufficient” to justify the interference. The ECtHR reiterated that where a balancing exercise had been undertaken by the national authorities, it would require strong reasons to substitute its view for that of the domestic courts. There was therefore no violation of Article 10 in relation to the second and third videos.
As for the first video, however, the ECtHR said that the Greek authorities had failed to take into account the circumstances under which it had been recorded. Despite the fact that it, too, had been filmed using a hidden camera, it had not been recorded on private premises. The interference with AC’s rights under Article 8 was therefore significantly less serious. The ECtHR said that the Greek authorities should have included in their assessment the fact that AC, by entering a gambling arcade, could legitimately have expected his conduct to have been closely monitored and even recorded on camera, especially in view of the fact that he was a public figure.
The ECtHR concluded that the Greek authorities had not struck a reasonable balance of proportionality between the measures restricting the company’s right to freedom of expression imposed by them, and the legitimate aim pursued. There had therefore been a violation of Article 10 in respect of the first video. (Alpha Doryforiki Tileorasi Anonymi Etairia v Greece (application no. 72562/10) — 22 February 2018 — to read the judgment in full, click here).