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Jersild v. Denmark, No. 15890/89, ECtHR (Grand Chamber), 23 September 1994


Conviction of a journalist for having made a documentary containing racist and xenophobic remarks. Unlawful interference with freedom of expression.

Normative references

Art. 10 ECHR


The conviction of a journalist for assisting in the dissemination of racist and xenophobic statements made by other persons with the only aim of imparting information about a matter of public interest breaches Art. 10 ECHR. The press plays a vital role of “public watchdog”, that should not be constrained unless there are particularly strong reasons for doing so.
(In the present case, the applicant, a journalist, was convicted of aiding and abetting the dissemination of racist remarks. Specifically, he made a documentary containing extracts from a television interview he had conducted with three members of a group of young people calling themselves the Greenjackets, who made abusive and derogatory remarks about immigrants and ethnic groups in Denmark. Taking into consideration the contents of the documentary, as well as the context in which it was broadcast and the purpose of it, the Court found that the interference with the applicant’s right to freedom of expression was not “necessary in a democratic society”, being his conviction disproportionate to the legitimate aim pursued by national authorities – namely the one of protecting the reputation of others).