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Mustafa Erdoğan and Others v. Turkey, Nos. 346/04, 39779/04, ECtHR (Second Section), 27 May 2014


Freedom of expression and publication of an article that criticizes a Constitutional Court’s decision ordering the dissolution of a political party.

Normative references

Art. 10 ECHR


1. Freedom of expression, which constitutes one of the essential foundations of a democratic society and one of the basic conditions for its progress and for each individual’s self-fulfilment, is applicable not only to information or ideas being favourably received or regarded as inoffensive or as a matter of indifference, but also to those that offend, shock or disturb. Such are the demands of that pluralism, tolerance and broadmindedness without which there is no democratic society.

2. Academic freedom in research and in training should guarantee freedom of expression and of action, freedom to disseminate information and freedom to conduct research and distribute knowledge and truth without restriction. Such freedom is not restricted to academic or scientific research, but it also extends to the academics’ freedom to express freely their views and opinions, even if controversial or unpopular, in the areas of their research, professional expertise and competence. This may include an examination of the functioning of public institutions in a given political system, and a criticism thereof.

3. Courts, as all other public institutions, are not immune from criticism and scrutiny. In particular, a clear distinction must be made between criticism and insult. If the sole intent of any form of expression is to insult a court, or members of that court, an appropriate sanction would not, in principle, constitute a violation of Article 10 of the Convention. However, when the language and expressions used are mostly value judgments, coloured by the author’s own political and legal opinions and perceptions, they cannot be construed as a gratuitous personal attack against the judges of the Constitutional Court.
(In the present case, in which the claimants had been ordered for defamation for criticising the decision to dissolve a political party, the Court unanimously held that there has been a violation of article 10 ECHR, since the interference with freedom of expression was not based on sufficient reasons to show that the interference complained of was necessary in a democratic society for the protection of the reputation and rights of others).