European court of human rights pronounced the guilty verdict to Ukraine for violation of the freedom of speech


The joint-stock company “Ukrainska press-Grupa” (“The Ukrainian press-group”), which owns the newspaper “Day”, turned to the European court of human rights with the appeal against the decisions of Ukrainian judges in the case on the protection of honor and dignity of Natalya Vitrenko and Petro Simonenko.

In August 1999 N. Vitrenko and P. Simonenko handed the claim to court on the protection of honor, dignity and business reputation. Both claimants asserted that the information, published by the newspaper, was untrue.

The claim concerned two articles by well-known journalist Tetiana Korobova, published in the newspaper “Day” on 21 August and 14 September 1999. The journalist expressed her personal opinion about the role of these political figures in the President’s campaign of 1999. the mentioned politicians declared that the published information was not true and, according to the decisions of Ukrainian courts, got corresponding compensation for that.

In March 2000 the Minskiy district court of Kyiv issued the decision on falseness of the article about Vitrenko and obliged the company “Ukrainska press-Grupa” to pay to N. Vitrenko the compensation equal to 2000 hryvnas and to publish refutation in the newspaper.

In June 2000 the court partly satisfied the demands of P. Simonenko and obliged “Ukrainska press-Grupa” to pay to the leader of communists the compensation of 1000 hryvnas and to refute the published information.

Yet, the European Court of human rights, where the newspaper “day” turned with the complaint, resolved that the decision of the Ukrainian court contradicted to Article 10 of the Convention of human rights. The European Court rejected the peaceful settlement of the conflict, since it decided that respect to human rights demands more thoughtful consideration of the case. The Court unanimously took the decision that Article 10 of the European Convention of human rights (the freedom of expression). The Court also took into account recommendations, reports and resolutions of international organs and non-governmental organizations, which expressed their deep anxiety about the situation that had formed in Ukraine in the sphere of human rights.

The European Court confirmed that the critics of both politicians was impressive, polemical and wrote in sarcastic language. Without doubt, both politicians had the reasons to be offended. Yet, when they were choosing their profession, they had to be ready to criticism: this is the inevitable burned of a politician in democratic society.

Advocate Dmytro Kutakh, who represents the interests of the newspaper “Day”, said in his interview to Deutche Welle: “We have grounded our defense on the argument that the bounds of critics of politicians is much wider. The mater concerned evaluative judgments. This was also the main ground of our claim to the European Court”. The advocate expressed hope that this court precedent will promote faster implementation of the norms of European media right into the Ukrainian legal proceedings.

“We turned to the European Court, when we had lose the case in the Ukrainian courts of all levels: from district court to the Supreme Court of Ukraine.” – Larisa Ivshina, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper “Day”, commented the situation. “The case was considered during three and a half years, and on 29 March 2005 the European Court approved the resolution, unprecedented for our state (since Ukrainian court, unfortunately, still confuse facts and evaluative judgments), but quite usual for Europe. This decision in favor of journalists is a peculiar warning to politicians: we are moving towards Europe and must accept the civilized legal norms. Yet, this does not means permissiveness – ethics, conscience and culture of journalists must always be on the alert.

By the words of Larisa Ivshina, this decision belongs not only to the newspaper “Day”, but also to all Ukrainian journalism. The European Court acknowledged Ukraine to be guilty of violation of Article 10 of the Convention of human rights. So, Ukraine within three months must recompense to the newspaper more than 588 Euro of material damage, 33 thousand of moral damage and 5.5 thousand Euro of court expenses. The total sum – about 39 thousand Euros.

Our informant

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