Miranda Butler acts in European Court of Human Rights challenge by Azerbaijani journalist

Thursday 10 January 2019

Miranda Butler acted for the interveners, a coalition of NGOs including PEN International and Privacy International. She was led by Can Yeginsu of 4 New Square Chambers.

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In a decision handed down today, the European Court of Human Rights has found that Azerbaijan breached the rights of Khadija Ismayilova, an award-winning journalist and critic of the country’s repressive regime.

Ms Ismayilova complained that she had had hidden cameras installed in her flat and intimate videos of her were taken secretly and disseminated online. She complained to the police whose resulting investigation, the Court found, was significantly flawed. The Court concluded that the state had therefore failed to comply with its positive obligation to ensure adequate protection for Ms Ismayilova’s private life by carrying out an effective investigation into the very serious interferences with her private life. There had been a further breach of her private life by the disclosure of an excessive amount of her personal information by the government in a “status report” published on the investigation. It therefore found a violation of Ms Ismayilova’s rights under Article 8 ECHR.

Finally, the Court found a violation of Article 10. It took note of:

the reports of physical attacks and other types of alleged persecution of journalists, and the perceived climate of impunity for such acts, as those responsible were reportedly rarely, if ever, brought to justice. The Court considers that such an environment may produce a grave chilling effect on freedom of expression, including on the “public watchdog” role of journalists and other media actors and on open and vigorous public debate, all of which are essential in a democratic society”.

The Court concluded that the authorities, when investigating the case, failed to take positive measures to protect her journalistic freedom of expression.

Miranda Butler is a member of the Garden Court Chambers Immigration team.

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