CoE: The right to report about parliamentary sessions

Gianna Iacino

On 9 February 2017, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) decided that the forcible removal of journalists from a parliamentary press gallery constitutes a violation of art. 10 European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

In December 2012, during a parliamentary session of the Macedonian parliament, members of the opposition protested against the procedure for approving the state budget. When the protest escalated, security officers escorted those members of the opposition as well as journalists reporting from the parliamentary press gallery, from the building. Due to their forcible removal, several journalists filed a complaint with the Macedonian Constitutional Court for the violation of their right to freedom of expression. The Court dismissed the action. While the Constitutional Court found an interference with the right to freedom of expression of the journalists due to their forcible removal from the parliamentary press gallery, it found the interference to be justified. Due to the dangerous events during the parliamentary session, it was necessary for the safety of the journalists to remove them from the building. Furthermore, according to the Constitutional Court, the removal did not prevent the journalists from reporting, because they could watch a live stream of the parliamentary session in the press centre and they were able to publish reports about the session on the same day. Several journalists filed an application against the decision of the Constitutional Court with the ECtHR.

The ECtHR decided in favour of the journalists. According to the ECtHR, the removal of the journalists interfered with their right to freedom of expression according to art. 10 ECHR. While the Court assessed that the interference was prescribed by law and pursued a legitimate aim, it found the removal not necessary in a democratic society.

On the one hand, the Court considered the parliament’s right to take measures to deal with disorderly and disruptive conduct to protect the political and legislative process. On the other hand, the Court pointed out that the presence of the press guarantees that authorities are being held accountable for their conduct. It found that the journalists themselves were mere passive observers of the disturbance by the members of the opposition and that they did neither pose any threat to public safety and order in the chamber nor were the journalists’ lives and physical integrity in any danger.

Neither did the ECtHR follow the argument of the Macedonian Constitutional Court that the journalists were not prevented from exercising their right to freedom of expression due to their removal. On the contrary, according to the ECtHR, the journalists were prevented from obtaining first-hand and direct knowledge based on personal experience of the unfolding events.

Therefore, the ECtHR concluded that the forcible removal of the journalists from the parliamentary press gallery violated their right to freedom of expression according to art. 10 ECHR.

Gianna Iacino, LL.M., works at the Institute of European Media Law (EMR), Saarbrücken/Brussels.


The judgement is available in English language.


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Source information: This article was originally published by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom –