Cumpana a Mazare proti Rumunsku

Európsky súd pre ľudské práva
17. decembra 2004

The applicants, Mr. Cumpănă and Mr. Mazăre, were journalists by profession. They published an article in the local newspaper questioning the legality of a contract of City Council with a particular commercial company. The article was accompanied by a cartoon showing the former legal adviser of City Council, Mrs. R.M., on the former deputy mayor’s arm, carrying a bag containing banknotes. Mrs. R.M. brought proceedings against the applicants. The applicants were convicted of insult and defamation and sentenced to seven months’ imprisonment; they were also prohibited from working as journalists for one year. 

The applicants submitted that their conviction was an unjustified interference with their right to freedom of expression.

Court’s ruling
The Court ruled that, although the applicants’ conviction might have been justified, the sanctions imposed on them had been manifestly disproportionate and therefore violated their freedom of expression.

The Court observed that the sanctions imposed on the applicants had been too severe. 

  • The imposition of a prison sentence for a press offence was allowed only in exceptional circumstances considering its chilling effect on press freedom. 

  • The circumstances of the instant case presented no justification for the imposition of a prison sentence.

  • As regards the order prohibiting the applicants from working as journalists for one year, the Court reiterated that prior restraints on the activities of journalists are justified only in exceptional circumstances.

  • In the present case, this sanction was particularly severe and could not have been justified by the mere risk of the applicants’ reoffending.

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