Free communication of information and ideas about public and political issues between citizens, candidates, and elected representatives is necessary.
- Political parties were able to communicate their opinions to the electorate
- Free communication of information and ideas about public and political issues took place between citizens, candidates, and elected representatives
- Freedom of opinion and expression by the media was respected throughout the electoral process. In addition, the media respected the freedom of opinion and expression of others
- The Court will now turn to the substantive positive obligations of the State in the context of media coverage of elections. The Court reiterates that there can be no democracy without pluralism (see Gorzelik and Others v. Poland [GC], no. 44158/98, §§ 89 et seq., 17 February 2004), which cannot be attained without the adoption of certain positive measures. In the field of audio-visual broadcasting the Court has stated that where a State “decide[s] to create a public broadcasting system, ... domestic law and practice must guarantee that the system provides a pluralistic service” (see Manole and Others, cited above, §§ 100-01). In the context of elections the duty of the State to adopt some positive measures to secure pluralism of views has also been recognised by the Court (see, for example, Mathieu-Mohin and Clerfayt, cited above, § 54; see also, mutatis mutandis, Informationsverein Lentia and Others v. Austria, judgment of 24 November 1993, Series A no. 276, § 38, and Russian Conservative Party of Entrepreneurs and Others v. Russia, nos. 55066/00 and 55638/00, §§ 71-72, 11 January 2007).
- The Court has already admitted that political pluralism can be regarded as a “pressing social need” legitimising some forms of interference with the freedom of expression (see Bowman, cited above). At the same time the Court has repeatedly warned against prior restraints on free speech (see, for example, The Sunday Times v. the United Kingdom (no. 2), 26 November 1991, § 51, Series A no. 217), and stressed that in the sphere of political debate wide limits of criticism are acceptable (see Lingens v. Austria, judgment of 8 July 1986, Series A no. 103, §§ 41 and 42). The question is what sort of interference with journalistic freedom would be appropriate in the circumstances in order to protect the applicants’ rights under Article 3 of Protocol No. 1.
- In order to ensure the full enjoyment of rights protected by article 25, the free communication of information and ideas about public and political issues between citizens, candidates and elected representatives is essential. This implies a free press and other media able to comment on public issues without censorship or restraint and to inform public opinion. It requires the full enjoyment and respect for the rights guaranteed in articles 19, 21 and 22 of the Covenant, including freedom to engage in political activity individually or through political parties and other organizations, freedom to debate public affairs, to hold peaceful demonstrations and meetings, to criticize and oppose, to publish political material, to campaign for election and to advertise political ideas.
- [States should foster citizen participation in the electoral process by] ensuring freedom of political debate in the media and guaranteeing that electoral campaigns are open and accessible and that they allow genuine debate that is not only of interest to voters but also informative for their choices. This requires, in particular, transparency and pluralism of all media as well as equal access for all candidates and political parties to the public service media, which should be impartial. Any national regulations on election campaigns should strike a fair balance between freedom of expression and ensuring equal opportunities.
- The international standards and case-law make clear that governments have a negative obligation not to interfere with the imparting of information by the media or by willing speakers.
- The very basis of democratic governance require that the electorate be able to make informed choices. This demands that all contesting points of view be fairly and equitably communicated on a non-discriminatory basis.
- Free media are a conditio sine qua non for providing voters with diverse information concerning elections and referendums. Thus, it is important that freedom of the press is constitutionally and legally guaranteed and not undermined in practice.
- Even in countries where the media work without undue restrictions, an unbiased coverage of election campaigns is not automatically guaranteed. Democratic elections depend largely on the ability and the willingness of the media to work in an impartial and professional manner during election campaigns. The failure of the media to provide impartial information about the election campaign and the candidates is one of the most frequent shortcomings arising during elections (CDL-AD(2002)023rev, para. 19).
- A democratic election is not possible where the legal framework inhibits or chills campaign speech and expression.
- Freedom of voters to form an opinion partly overlaps with equality of opportunity. It requires the state – and public authorities generally – to honour their duty of evenhandedness, particularly where the use of the mass media, billposting, the right to demonstrate on public thoroughfares and the funding of parties and candidates are concerned.
- The following conditions should exist in a country holding an election: no unreasonable limitations placed on a citizen's ability to participate in the political process… and respect for the rights of freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of assembly for a period adequate to allow political organizing and campaigning and to inform citizens about the candidates and issues.