The Icelandic state was ordered by the European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday to pay damages of EUR 8,000 (ISK 1.2 million, USD 10,000) to Icelandic journalist Erla Hlynsdóttir.
Erla, a journalist at DV, was found liable for defamation in 2010 following the publication in 2007 of an article about a high profile criminal case which was being investigated at the time.
The case involved Guðmundur Jónsson, the director of Byrgið, a Christian rehabilitation center for people with drug, alcohol and gambling additions. The director and his wife, Helga Haraldsdóttir, who worked as a teacher’s assistant at the center at the time, were suspected of having sexually abused female patients.
Guðmundur was later sentenced to two and a half years’ imprisonment and ordered to pay damages of ISK 800,000-1 million by the Supreme Court of Iceland for the sexual abuse of three of his female patients. He was acquitted of charges against a forth woman, mbl.is reports.
The article by Erla included statements by a former patient describing how the director’s wife had been involved in so-called sex games organized by her husband, in which the female patients had been manipulated and convinced to participate as they had been told that it was part of their healing process, as stated in the case judgment.
Erla was found by the Supreme Court of Iceland to be liable for defamation and ordered to pay the director’s wife compensation. Erla argued that the judgment was in breach of her rights under Article 10 (freedom of expression) and subsequently took her case to the European Court of Human Rights.
Hjálmar Jónsson, chair of the Icelandic Union of Journalists, said the ruling was a victory for Icelandic journalism.