European Court of Human Rights decided on the freedom of newspapers’ activity

September 12, 2013

Information Note on the Court’s case-lawNo. 165

July 2013

Remuszko v. Poland -1562/10

Judgment 16.7.2013 [Section IV]



Freedom ofexpression

Refusal of newspaper topublish paid advertisement: no violation

Facts – The applicant, a journalist, published a book relating, in anunfavourable light, the origins of GazetaWyborcza, one of the best known Polish daily newspapers, its journalistsand the financial dealings of its publisher. He subsequently asked seven dailyand weekly newspapers to publish paid advertisements for the book. All refused.The applicant brought proceedings against the newspapers. Eventually, twonewspapers were ordered to publish the advertisement concerned. Before theEuropean Court the applicant complained that the domestic courts had endorsed Rzeczpospolita’s (one of the newspapers)refusal to publish paid advertisements for his book, after finding theadvertisement was incompatible with the newspaper’s editorial profile and itspublication might give rise to suspicion that the editors of Rzeczpospolita were trying to denigratea competitor, Gazeta Wyborcza, in theeyes of the public.

Law – Article 10: The right invoked by the applicant had to beinterpreted and applied with due consideration for the rights of the press.Privately owned newspapers had to be free to exercise editorial discretion indeciding whether to publish articles, comments and letters submitted by privateindividuals or even by their own staff reporters and journalists. The State’sobligation to ensure freedom of expression did not give private citizens ororganisations an unfettered right of access to the media in order to putforward opinions. Those principles applied also to the publication ofadvertisements. An effective exercise of freedom of the press presupposed theright of newspapers to establish and apply their own policies in respect of thecontent of advertisements.

In the instant case it had not beenargued, let alone shown, that the applicant had had any difficulties inpublishing his book or that the authorities had tried in any way to prevent ordissuade him from publishing it or, more generally, that the media market inPoland was not pluralistic. While the issues examined in that book mightcontribute to a debate about the mission of the press in the Polish society,the paid advertisements proposed by the applicant had been essentially aimed atpromoting the distribution and his sales and thus had been primarily designedto further the applicant’s commercial interests. At no point had the applicantbeen prevented from disseminating information about the book by any means hewished. Indeed, he had created his own Internet website, through which he hadinformed the general public about the book, its content and its potential significancefor the public debate. The domestic law provided an effective proceduralframework within which the applicant could seek to have the substantive issuesinvolved in his case determined by judicial authorities. The courts hadcarefully weighed the applicant’s interests against the legitimate rights ofthe publishers, such as their own freedom of expression and economic freedom.Their conclusion that, in a pluralistic media market press, publishers shouldnot be obliged to carry advertisements proposed by private parties wascompatible with the freedom of expression standards under the Convention. TheState had therefore not failed to comply with its obligation to secure theapplicant’s freedom of expression.

Conclusion: no violation (unanimously).

(See also Appleby and Others v. the United Kingdom, no. 44306/98,6 May 2003, Information Note 53)

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