|Statewatch article: RefNo# 36944
|Statewatch News Online, August 2016
|A case pending before the European Court of Human Rights will add to the collection of European case law on freedom of expression and the world wide web.
Magyar Jeti Zrt v Hungary concerns the liability of a news website owner for publishing an article containing a link to a video containing statements about far-right group Jobbik which were found to be defamatory by a Hungarian court.
The video was of a September 2013 interview with a resident of a town in which a group of football supporters had arrived by bus at a predominantly Roma school and subsequently "made racist remarks; waved flags; and one of them allegedly urinated on the school."
The complainant's submission to the ECHR argues that "by finding that embedding in an article a hyperlink that leads to a defamatory content is equivalent to disseminating this content, the domestic courts [in Hungary] unduly restricted its freedom of expression and the freedom of press."
The European Information Society Institute, based in Slovakia, recently submitted a third party intervention to the court in support of the applicant's complaint. The intervention deals with:
a) the importance of hyperlinks for the architecture of the Internet and new media by explaining the social value of hyperlink (see section I. Social Value of a Hyperlink) and development of new media generally (see section II. New Notion of Media);
b) the impact that this decision may have on the exercise of freedom of expression online (see section III. Freedom of Expression Online);
c) the ways in which the Court’s existing case-law supports the interpretation that a journalist should not be held liable for hyperlinking to a third party content when exercising its right to a freedom of press in matters of public interest. More generally, any person, regardless of being a journalist, who is hyperlinking to a third party content should be clear of any liability unless there are exceptional circumstances, such as circumstances proving his/her intention to endorse the content’s message (see section IV. Conclusions).
The intervention: Third Party Intervention Submission by European Information Society Institute (EISi) (link to pdf)
See: the application to the ECHR, lodged on 23 February 2016 and communicated on 26 May 2016: Application no 11257/16, MAGYAR JETI ZRT against Hungary (pdf) and copied below:
STATEMENT OF FACTS
The applicant, Magyar Jeti Zrt, is a company registered under Hungarian law, with its seat in Budapest. It is represented before the Court by Ms Y. Jansen, a lawyer practising in London.
The circumstances of the case
The facts of the case, as submitted by the applicant, may be summarised as follows.
The applicant is the operator of the Hungarian news portal 444.hu which is used by approximately 250,000 users per day. The applicant often utilises hyperlinks embedded in the published contents, which lead readers to relating materials published elsewhere.
On 5 September 2013 a group of football supporters travelling to Romania stopped at an elementary school in Konyár, Hungary. The pupils of the school were predominantly of Roma origin. After getting off the bus, the football supporters made racist remarks, waved flags; and one of them allegedly urinated on the school building. Some minutes later the football supporters got back on the bus and left the village.
Mr J.Gy., the head of the local Roma minority self-government, accompanied by a parent and one of the children attending the school, gave an interview to a Roma minority media outlet on the same day. During the interview, he referred to persons related to Jobbik, a right-wing political party in Hungary, which had been previously criticised for its anti-Roma and anti-Semitic stance. The video was uploaded to Youtube.com the same day.
On 6 September 2013 the applicant published an article on the incident on the 444.hu website that referred to reports concerning the events in Konyár and included an embedded text hyperlink leading to the video available on Youtube.com. The text of the article itself did not mention the term Jobbik.
On 13 September 2013 Jobbik initiated legal proceedings against several respondents, including the applicant, the head of the local Roma minority self-government making the allegedly defamatory comment, the Roma minority media outlet recording the video uploaded on Youtube and the operators of other Hungarian news portals, alleging that its right to reputation had been violated by the Youtube video.
On 30 March 2014 the Debrecen High Court established the responsibility of six out of the eight respondents, including the applicant, in respect of the defamatory comments made in the video. Regarding the applicant, the court found that in making available the Youtube video by providing a hyperlink leading to it, it had disseminated the defamatory statements.
On appeal, on 25 September 2014 the Debrecen Court of Appeal upheld the judgment. It stated that the applicant was objectively liable for the content of the Youtube video and it was irrelevant whether it had acted in good faith or not.
The applicant lodged a petition for review with the Kúria. It argued that, in its interpretation of the relevant law, by only providing a hyperlink to it in an article it had not disseminated the content of the video.
On 10 June 2015 the Kúria upheld the previous judgments. It stressed that the applicant, by publishing a hyperlink leading to the Youtube video and transferring information through the Internet, spread the statement of Mr J.Gy. and had assumed objective liability for any defamatory content in it.
The applicant complains under Article 10 of the Convention that, by finding that embedding in an article a hyperlink that leads to a defamatory content is equivalent to disseminating this content, the domestic courts unduly restricted its freedom of expression and the freedom of press.
QUESTION TO THE PARTIES
Has there been a violation of the applicant’s right to freedom of expression, in particular its right to impart information and ideas, contrary to Article 10 of the Convention? What was the implication of the domestic courts’ applying the principle of objective liability in respect of the hyperlink published on the applicant’s website which led to defamatory contents?
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