After being refused information by the Italian Ministry of the Interior, the Administrative Court and the Council of State, freelance journalist and member of the International Federation of Journalists Sara Creta, supported by ASGI lawyers, lodges an appeal before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to enforce Article 10 of the ECHR Convention.
In October 2020, the journalist submitted a freedom of information (FOI) request to the Italian Ministry of Interior to find out how financial resources are used in Libya under the SIBMMIL project (‘Support to Integrated Border and Migration Management in Libya – first phase’), implemented by the Italian MoI.
This is a funding of EUR 46 million – approximately 42 of which come from the European Emergency Trust Fund for Africa – intended to strengthen the operational capacities of the Libyan authorities in land and maritime border management activities. By providing Libyan authorities with equipment as well as technical and political assistance, the project facilitates the interception of migrants and refugees in the Central Mediterranean and their return to the cruel and inhuman conditions of torture and slavery in the North African country’s detention centres.
Despite civil society has a clear interest in obtaining information on the use of public funds in Libya, especially in light of their serious impact on people’s rights, the MoI, the Administrative Court and the Council of State rejected the journalist’s request arguing that the disclosure of documents would pose a risk to international relations and public safety. However, the decision to refuse access and the two judgments do not explain what these risks might be.
Ms. Creta – represented by ASGI lawyer Luce Bonzano – decided to submit the case to the ECHR’s scrutiny, claiming a violation of her right to freedom of expression, as enshrined in Article 10 of the ECHR Convention: “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers”.
For Ms. Creta, the refusal to disclose information amounts to interference with the exercise of her right to report, preventing her from providing accurate and reliable information and thus from exercising public scrutiny (as a public watchdog), which is essential in any democratic society.
“It is fundamental for journalists to have non-discriminatory access to information. For a long time now, total opacity in the management of Italian and European funds in Libya has been accompanied by serious human rights violations. Given the magnitude of this expenditure and its implications for foreign policy, the right to know cannot be denied”, says Sara Creta.
“It is imperative that freedom of expression, and therefore the right to receive and provide information to the public, be protected particularly when it is exercised by individuals who represent civil society interests, as the ECHR has already had occasion to emphasize”, says Luce Bonzano.
The Court will therefore have the task of examining the decisions taken by the national courts in the light of Article 10 and assessing whether they struck a correct balance between the risks restricting access and the exercise of the rights protected by the Convention.
Photo credit Polina Kovaleva da Pexels