Human rights and satellite dishes

Where a satellite dish is needed for TV reception (eg to receive programmes from one’s country of origin) then a court order to enforce removal of the dish (because, for example, it is in breach of the terms of a lease) might amount to an infringement of the right to freedom of information in the EU.

This is about a case under the European Convention on Human Rights but may be of general interest. In Khurshid Mustafa v Sweden ((2011) 52 E.H.R.R. 24) the applicants were tenants of a flat in Stockholm. They were from Iraq and had installed a satellite dish at their rented flat to allow them to receive TV programmes from their country of origin. They could only do this through a satellite dish. The landlords, citing safety and aesthetic concerns and their rights under the lease, asked the tenants to remove the dish. They refused to do so and the landlords sought to terminate the lease under Swedish domestic law. Sweden’s Court of Appeal ordered judicial execution of the termination notice served on the tenants. As a result, they had to leave their flat and move quite a long way to find a new flat. This resulted in expense (including increased travelling costs). The tenants sought compensation from the Swedish Government on the basis that the Court of Appeal’s order had interfered with their right to freedom of information under article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The European Court of Human Rights agreed. The right had been interfered with. The applicants needed the TV reception to stay in touch with their culture and to allow their children to do so. The interference was not justified under article 10(2) because it could not be shown that it could be justified in a democratic society. This could only be shown if the interference were based on a pressing social need. Here the relevant need was the need to protect others. The landlords had not made this out. In any event, there was a need for proportionality between the aim pursued and the interference. Here the interference resulted in a need to move the family home and this was not proportionate.

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