The European Court of Human Rights, ECHR ruled on Tuesday that Stjepan Mesic’s right to respect for his private life was not violated by the Croatian courts, which the former president argued had failed to protect his reputation.
The case centred on an article published in February 2015 by news website Dnevno.hr, which suggested that while in office, Mesic had been involved in criminal activities related to the procurement of armoured vehicles for the Croatian Army from the Finnish company Patria.
Mesic, who served as head of state from 2000 to 2010, brought a civil action for compensation but it was dismissed by the domestic courts.
He then addressed the ECHR, arguing that the domestic courts had failed to protect his reputation in violation of his right to respect for his private life guaranteed by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The ECHR did not address the veracity of the article, in which Dnevno.hr insinuated that Mesic received a bribe, but noted that “the author of the article should have chosen his words more carefully”.
“The article suggested that the findings of the Finnish prosecuting and judicial authorities called for further investigation in Croatia into the possible corruption of the former President of Croatia – a public figure par excellence – in the procurement process for military vehicles for the Croatian army,” the ruling said.
“The court therefore finds, as the [Croatian] domestic courts did, that the impugned article undoubtedly concerned a matter of public interest, and reiterates that there is little scope under the Convention for restrictions on the debate on such matters,” it added.
The ruling also noted the importance of the “‘watchdog’ role of the media”, saying that “investigative journalism guarantees that the authorities can be held to account for their conduct”.
Source: Balkan Insight