Belpietro v. Italy: Does Parliamentary Privilege Extend to the Press?
European Human Rights Cases, 2013, Vol. 14, No. 12
11 Pages Posted: 23 Nov 2013 Last revised: 13 Jun 2014
Date Written: October 1, 2013
In Belpietro v. Italy, the European Court of Human Rights reviewed the conviction of a newspaper editor for publishing a defamatory article written by an Italian senator targeting a number of public officials. Criminal proceedings against the senator were dropped as the newspaper article was considered to be covered by parliamentary immunity. The European Court held that the editor’s conviction did not violate the right to freedom of expression; however, the Court did hold that the sanctions imposed (including a suspended four-month prison sentence) were disproportionate. While the Court’s ruling on the sanctions point is correct, this article questions whether the Court’s main ruling on the editor’s criminal liability is consistent with the Court’s prior case law. Further, the issue of parliamentary immunity is explored, and in particular, whether this immunity should extend to protecting editors from criminal prosecution.
Keywords: European Convention on Human Rights. Freedom of expression. Criminal defamation. Parliamentary Privilege. Chilling effect.
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