Romania was condemned at the ECHR for violating the freedom of expression
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Translation: Fairpress
The European Court of Human Rights sentenced Romania for violating the right to free expression in a case which involved the mayor of Constanta, Radu Mazăre and the journalist Feri Predescu. The social democrat mayor, who is a very controversial figure, for his political influence and relations with powerful businessmen sued the journalist for criticising him in a TV show. He is also known for his eccentricities, such as organizing pharaonic festivals each summer in which he played the main role. In one of this occasions, the mayor and his son dressed as Nazi officers. He is currently investigated in several cases of corruption and abuse in office.

In 2006, after a hotel managed by one of Mazare’s companies was set on fire Predescu declared publicly that Constanta is divided between those who are with Mazare and those who are against him. After the show, the politician asked that Predescu publicly apologize and pay a sum of 200.000 RON (approx. 45.000 EUR).

The first court rejected the complaint in 2007, but the Tribunal and the Court of Appeal sentenced her to present a public apology to the mayor through a public letter in a local and a central newspaper and to pay 50.000 RON (approx. 11.000 EUR) to the mayor, as well as 7197 RON (almost 1600 EUR) in judiciary

taxes. Predescu called for a loan at a bank in order to pay, which is due in 2018.

In 2009 she went to the ECHR and claimed that art. 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights has been violated. Moreover, the sentence is excessive. The recent decision of the European Court imposed a sanction of 14.000 EUR to the Romanian state as material damages and 4.500 EUR as a moral prejudice.

In its defence, the Romanian Government pleaded in front of the ECHR that the comments do not have a real background and that they are connected to the private life of the mayor and not his public position. Moreover, the representatives of the Romanian state declared that this was part of a more orchestrated campaign against Mr. Mazare.

Feri Predescu was represented by The Association for the Defense of Human Rights in Romania (APADOR-CH) that showed that during the TV shows the journalist has provided information of public interest regarding the potential illegal activities of the mayor. Moreover, the press has written constantly about Radu Mazare’s influence in Constanta and the civil society raised attention on this topic in many instances.

The full decision can be read here.

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