Application Number 24683/14
European Court of Human Rights
The case involved the conviction for terrorism offences through the promotion of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) through television programmes. The Court found that the television station could not benefit from the protection afforded by Article 10 as the applicants had tried to use it for purposes which are contrary to the values of the Convention.
Theme(s): Violence, terrorism
Date: 16 April 2018
Description of applicant(s): Company and television channel
Brief description of facts: The case concerned the applicant company’s conviction for terrorism offences by Danish courts for promoting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) through television programmes broadcasted between 2006 and 2010. The company received a fine of approximately
EUR 671,141 and was deprived of its license to broadcast.
(Alleged) target(s) of speech: Turkish State
The Court’s assessment of the impugned speech: The Court found that the television station could not benefit from the protection afforded by Article 10 as the applicants had tried to use it for purposes which are contrary to the values of the Convention. These included incitement to violence and support for terrorist activity, which are a violation of Article 17 (prohibition of abuse of rights).
Important paragraph(s) from the judgment:
Para. 46: The Court recalls that Article 17 of the Convention is, as recently confirmed by the Court, only applicable on an exceptional basis and in extreme cases. In the present case, the Court attaches significant weight to the fact that in the proceedings before the national courts, the City Court found (see paragraph 9 above) that the one-sided coverage with repetitive incitement to participate in fights and actions, incitement to join the organisation/the guerrilla, and the portrayal of deceased guerrilla members as heroes, amounted to propaganda for the PKK, a terrorist organisation, and that it could not be considered only a declaration of sympathy. In addition, the applicant company had been financed to a significant extent by the PKK in the years 2006 to 2001. Furthermore, the High Court of Eastern Denmark found explicitly that, having regard to the content, presentation and connection of the programmes of the applicant company, the case concerned the promotion of the PKK´s terror operation.
Para. 47. Consequently, the Court finds that, taking firstly account of the nature of the impugned programmes, which included incitement to violence and support for terrorist activity, elements extensively examined by the national courts, secondly, the fact that the views expressed therein were disseminated to a wide audience through television broadcasting and, thirdly, that they related directly to an issue which is paramount in modern European society – the prevention of terrorism and terrorist-related expressions advocating the use of violence – the applicant company´s complaint does not, by virtue of Article 17 of the Convention, attract the protection afforded by Article 10.
ECHR Article: Article 17
Decision: Incompatible ratione materiae with the provisions of the Convention
Use of ‘hate speech’ by the Court in its assessment? Yes:
Para. 38. Finally, the most recent decision, Belkacem v. Belgium concerns the conviction of the applicant, the leader and spokesperson of the organisation “Sharia4Belgium”, which was dissolved in 2012, for incitement to discrimination, hatred and violence on account of remarks he made in YouTube videos concerning non-Muslim groups and Sharia. The Court noted that in his remarks the applicant had called on viewers to overpower non-Muslims, teach them a lesson and fight them. The Court was in no doubt as to the markedly hateful nature of the applicant’s views, and agreed with the domestic courts’ finding that the applicant, through his recordings, had sought to stir up hatred, discrimination and violence towards all non-Muslims. In the Court’s view, such a general and vehement attack was incompatible with the values of tolerance, social peace and non-discrimination underlying the Convention. With reference to the remarks concerning Sharia, the Court observed that it had previously ruled that defending Sharia while calling for violence to establish it could be regarded as “hate speech” and that each Contracting State was entitled to oppose political movements based on religious fundamentalism.