Thursday, March 15, 2018

European court: Burning photos of Spanish king is “freedom of expression”

In the midst of an ongoing national debate about the limits of free speech in Spain and the laws being used to punish alleged excesses, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg has just given the country a collective rap on the knuckles with a decision that contradicts Spanish courts and states that burning photos of the king is not a criminal offense, but rather a form of free political expression.

“The Court reiterated in that context that freedom of expression extended to ‘information’ and ‘ideas’ that offended, shocked or disturbed: such were the demands of pluralism, tolerance and broad-mindedness, without which there was no ‘democratic society’,” the court stated in its decision.

The facts of the case date back more than a decade. In 2007, Catalan separatists Enric Stern and Jaume Roura burned a large-format photo of the Spanish king and queen during an anti-monarchy protest in Girona, ahead of a visit to the city by then-King Juan Carlos.

Stern doused the photo, which had been placed upside down, with inflammable liquid, while Roura set fire to it, as both were egged on by other demonstrators.

Freedom of expression extended to ‘information’ and ‘ideas’ that offended, shocked or disturbed

A year later, Spain’s High Court (Audiencia Nacional) sentenced them to pay a €2,700 fine if they wanted to avoid jail for the offense of insulting the Crown. If they failed to pay up, they were warned, they would have to serve 15 months in jail.

In 2015, Spain’s Constitutional Court rejected their appeal in a split decision, and cited a ruling from precisely the ECHR that found it necessary to “sanction and even prevent all forms of expression that propagate, incite, promote or justify hatred based on intolerance.”

But in its recent decision, the Strasbourg-based court unanimously found that in this case, there had been a “violation of article 10” of the European Convention on Human Rights, which defends freedom of expression. The ruling not only rejects the sanction imposed by the Spanish courts, but also calls on Spain to compensate the applicants with the same amount that they paid in fines, as well as €9,000 in total for the pair to cover their legal fees.



Anonymous said...

Unless it offends Islam of course! Then NO freedom of expression.

Bird of Paradise said...

The screwball who call Islam the Religion of Peace needs loaded intoa time machine and teleported ti the time of the Crusades and see what the religion peace did with christians