On 16 November, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled in favour of the complaint filed by the Golos association.
In 2011, during the campaign for the State Duma elections in Russia, the state launched a campaign of pressure on the Golos association. One of its episodes was the opposition to the "Map of Violations", which documents DDoS attacks, attempts to discredit the project in the federal media, and fines for publishing citizens' reports on election violations.
The Chairman of the Russian Central Election Commission, Vladimir Churov, and a group of MPs appealed to the Prosecutor-General's Office demanding that Golos be held liable. The Prosecutor's Office appealed to the court, where it claimed that the operation of the Map of Violations and the publication of information on Golos' website allegedly fell within the ban on publishing opinion polls, election result projections, and other campaign-related research within five days before election day. On 2 December 2011, a magistrate found Golos guilty and fined the association 30 thousand rubles.
As a result of its examination of the case, the ECHR concluded that the persecution of the Golos association violated Article 10, Freedom of Expression, of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms: "Everyone has the right to freely express his opinion. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and freedom to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers...". The Court pointed out that the information on the "Map of Violations" could not be considered as the publication of a public opinion poll and, accordingly, did not violate Russian election law.
The ECHR in its decision stated that the excessive coverage of the electoral legislation with regard to the "silence period", extending to all materials relating to the current election, as interpreted and applied by the Russian courts and confirmed by the authorities, in this case disproportionately interfered with the exercise of freedom to impart information and ideas on the conduct of free and fair elections. The Court considers that election observers should be able to draw public attention to alleged violations of election laws and procedures as they occur, otherwise such publications would lose much of their value to the public. The vague nature of the accusation prevented Golos from fulfilling its function of "public scrutiny".
This decision means that the established prohibitions cannot be extended to public scrutiny materials that pertain to violations, as this constitutes unjustified state interference in freedom of expression.
Thus, Golos won a victory at the ECHR. There are several more cases on our complaints ahead.