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Perna v. Italy

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It was not sufficient for an accused to complain that he was not permitted to examine certain witnesses; he also had to support his request to call witnesses by explaining the importance of doing so and it had to be necessary for the court to take evidence from the witnesses concerned in order to be able to establish the true facts. That principle also applied to the examination of the complainant in a defamation case.

In reviewing the decisions given by domestic courts by virtue of their power of appreciation the Court had to ensure that sanctions against the press were strictly proportionate and prompted by assertions which did indeed overstep the limits of acceptable criticism, while safeguarding assertions which might and therefore must enjoy the protection of Article 10. A careful distinction had to be made between facts and value-judgments. The existence of facts could be demonstrated, whereas the truth of value-judgments was not susceptible of proof. An opinion may, however, be excessive, in particular in the absence of any factual basis. Journalistic freedom covered possible recourse to a degree of exaggeration, or even provocation. Article 10 protected not only the substance of the ideas and information expressed, but also the form in which they were conveyed.

While judicial officers had to be protected against unfounded attacks, the press was nevertheless one of the means by which politicians and public opinion could verify that judges were discharging their heavy responsibilities in a manner that was in conformity with the aim which was the basis of the task entrusted to them.


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