European court of human rights

The alarming human rights ruling on freedom of speech

‘You can’t libel the dead’ is burned into the consciousness of any serious journalist or writer. It provides much-needed comfort: however tactful you have to be about the living, once someone has died you can say what you like about them without getting sued. Or can you? Seven years ago the European Court of Human Rights dropped a worrying throwaway remark that this might be unacceptable because allowing untrammelled comment about a deceased person might infringe the human rights of his family. Last week, in a disconcerting decision that seems to have gone entirely unreported in the media (you can read the official report here), that same court built on