Judgment concerning Bulgaria

Human Rights building - Main hearing room
02/05/23

In the case of Mestan v. Bulgaria the Court held that there had been a violation of the freedom of expression.

The case concerned an administrative sanction imposed on the leader of a political party – traditionally supported by voters belonging to the Turkish minority in Bulgaria – who was a candidate in the 2013 Bulgarian parliamentary elections, for speaking in Turkish while campaigning for election. The Bulgarian authorities took the view that he had breached the Bulgarian Electoral Code.

The Court noted that the Bulgarian Electoral Code imposed an absolute prohibition on the use of any language other than the official language (Bulgarian) in election campaigning, and that breaches of the relevant provisions resulted in administrative sanctions in the form of fines.

The Court found that the prohibition in question did not correspond to a pressing special need and was not proportionate to the legitimate aims mentioned in the Convention. The interference with the exercise of the applicant’s right to freedom of expression had therefore not been necessary in a democratic society.

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