Press release 121/2017
27 June 2017
On 27 June 2017 the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) gave its judgment in a case concerning Finland. The Court held that there had been no violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Court did, however, find a violation of Article 6 (right to a fair hearing within a reasonable time).
In an earlier judgment of 21 July 2015 the Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights reached the same conclusion by six votes to one. The case was referred to the Grand Chamber at the request of the applicant companies. The Grand Chamber judgments are final.
The applicant companies had published taxation information in the newspaper Veropörssi. The second applicant company had also started an SMS service permitting people to obtain taxation information using their mobile phones. In the national administrative procedure the companies were forbidden to process taxation information in the extent and manner they had done. They were also forbidden to collect, store and pass such data to the SMS service or for any other purpose. It was ruled that the processing of data had been in violation of the Personal Data Act.
The ECHR Grand Chamber held that while there had been an interference with the applicant companies’ freedom of expression, the interference had been in accordance with the law and it had pursued the legitimate aim of protecting the reputation or rights of individuals. The Grand Chamber held that the Finnish authorities had based their decision on relevant and sufficient grounds and that they had struck a fair balance between the right to privacy and the right to freedom of expression. Although personal taxation information are publicly accessible in Finland, they are also fall within the scope of privacy protection. The Grand Chamber held that the publication of taxation information in the extent and manner the companies had done did not contribute to a debate of public interest and had not been for a solely journalistic purpose.
The Grand Chamber held that the proceedings were not characterised by any particularly long periods of inactivity on the part of the domestic authorities and courts. However, the total length of the proceedings at six years and six months was excessive because the case was examined twice by each level of jurisdiction. The proceedings had also impact on the applicant companies’ publishing activities.
The ECHR held that the Finnish State is to pay the applicant companies EUR 9,500 in respect of legal costs and expenses.
The Court held by 15 to 2 votes that there had been no violation of Article 10, by 15 to 2 votes that there had been a violation of Article 6, and by 14 to 3 votes that the State is to pay the companies compensation for legal costs.
Read the press release issued by the European Court of Human Rights and the judgment in full at the website of the Court and the HUDOC database.
Inquiries: Satu Sistonen, Legal Officer, Unit for Human Rights Courts and Conventions, tel. +358 295 351 789.
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