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Giniewski v. France, No. 64016/00, ECtHR (Second Section), 31 January 2006


Journalist’s conviction for defamation of religion. Unlawful interference with freedom of expression. 

Normative references

Art. 10 ECHR


Critical statements concerning religious matters, which make a contribution to debates of public interest without offending, insulting or inciting hatred against religious beliefs as such, do not amount to defamation against religion. In such circumstances, restrictions on freedom of expression have to be strictly construed. (In the instant case, the applicant, a journalist, sociologist and historian, was convicted for defaming the Christian community. Specifically, he published an article in a daily newspaper that criticized a papal encyclical. According to the French judges, the article amounted to accusing “Catholics and, more generally, Christians of being responsible for the Nazi massacres”. The Strasbourg Court observes that, although the article criticised the Pope's position, the view it expressed cannot be extended to Christianity as a whole. Moreover, by investigating the possible links between the Christian doctrine and the origins of the Holocaust, the applicant made a contribution to an ongoing debate on a question of indisputable public interest in a democratic society. Consequently, the Court found that the applicant’s conviction amounted to an unlawful interference with his right to freedom of expression).