Mammadov and Abbasov v. Azerbaijan (Application no. 1172/12)
A selection of key paragraphs can be found below the judgement.CASE-OF-MAMMADOV-AND-ABBASOV-v.-AZERBAIJAN
60. The Court reiterates that public measures preventing journalists from doing their work or adversely affecting the exercise of their journalistic functions may raise issues under Article 10 (see Gsell v. Switzerland, no. 12675/05, § 49, 8 October 2009; Najafli v. Azerbaijan, no. 2594/07, § 36, 2 October 2012; and Pentikäinen v. Finland [GC], no. 11882/10, § 83, ECHR 2015). In the instant case, it is undisputed that the applicants were present on the premises of the newspaper on 8 October 2009 to collect information about the ongoing police operation and to report on the event; that is, they were doing their journalistic work. The Court refers to its above findings concerning the consistent and plausible nature of the first applicant’s submissions and the Government’s failure to provide any evidence capable of rebutting his version of events (see paragraph 52 above). In particular, the Court observed that neither the investigating authorities nor the domestic courts contested the applicants’ submissions that their journalistic equipment had been returned to them at around 10 p.m. on 8 October 2009 when S.A. had been released from the MIA (see paragraph 49 above). The Court has also established that on 8 October 2009 the first applicant was deprived of his liberty during around one hour in a car by police officers in plain clothes (see paragraph 52 above).
62. In these circumstances, the Court does not consider it necessary to establish whether the video footage and photos were removed from the memory cards of the applicants’ journalistic equipment as argued by the applicants since the foregoing considerations are sufficient to enable it to conclude that the seizure of the applicants’ journalistic equipment and the first applicant’s deprivation of liberty for one hour while the applicants were performing their professional duties seriously hampered their exercise of the right to receive and impart information. Indeed, the Court notes that, at the material time, the applicants had been seeking precisely to collect and impart information about a police operation in relation to fellow journalists and the newspaper where they worked. The Court therefore accepts that there was an interference with their right to freedom of expression.
63. As regards the question whether the interference was justified, the Court observes that it was not shown by the Government that it was either lawful or pursued any legitimate aim. In any event, it is clear that such interference, in circumstances where, as in the present case, there is no indication that the applicants acted in breach of the law (see, by contrast, Stoll v. Switzerland [GC], no. 69698/01, § 102, ECHR 2007‑V), could not be considered as “necessary in a democratic society” within the meaning of paragraph 2 of Article 10.
64. There has accordingly been a violation of Article 10 of the Convention.