Swiss Jail Should Have Allowed TV Cameras

     (CN) – Switzerland interfered with freedom of the press by barring a televised interview with a woman whose murder conviction raised controversy there, the European Court of Human Rights ruled.
     The woman is described only as “A.” in the court’s 14-page decision. It says she consistently disputed the charges against her that culminated with a murder conviction and intense media scrutiny.
     Appel-Au-Peuple, an organization that fights miscarriages of justice, allegedly threatened judges associated with A.’s case, and the group’s director went on a 60-day hunger strike in support of A.
     When another person accused in the same case was on trial in 2004, the Swiss Radio and Television Co. hoped to interview “A.” at Hindlebank Prison.
     “The prison refused the request, referring to the need to maintain peace, order and safety in the prison and to ensure equal treatment among the prisoners,” according to the court’s summary of the case.
     An administrative court dismissed the appeal.
     “The court held that the organisation and supervision measures required for television filming exceeded what could reasonably be expected of the prison authorities and proposed instead an audio recording or a simple interview, considering that images of the prisoner were not necessary for the purposes of a thematic report,” the court said in a statement.
     Although the media company pledged to work around the technical and security concerns, the prison still denied its appeals.
     “It held firstly that the importance of prison visits for prisoner rehabilitation did not grant entitlement to film in prisons and secondly that access by the film crew to the prison could violate the personality rights of other prisoners,” the court said. “It also endorsed the findings of the Administrative Court concerning access to generally accessible sources.”
     A five-judge majority of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg rejected the prison’s explanations.
     “While reiterating that the national authorities were better placed than the court to make decisions concerning access by third parties to a prison, the court concluded that the absolute ban imposed on the applicant company’s filming in the prison had not met a ‘pressing social need,'” the majority found, according to the release.
     Two judges dissented.
     The full judgment is available only in French.

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