In a new Opinion, the Council of Europe’s Consultative Council of European Judges (CCJE) has issued a set of recommendations to judges across Europe on the way to exercise their right to freedom of expression both inside and outside the court, including in the media and social media.
The Opinion notes that judges enjoy the right to freedom of expression like any other citizen. However, in exercising this right, they should bear in mind their specific responsibilities and duties in society, besides the professional secrecy obligations related to their judicial role. The CCJE considers that judges should exercise restraint in expressing their views and opinion in circumstances where it could compromise their independence, impartiality or dignity of their office or jeopardise the judiciary’s authority.
The CCJE underlines that whenever democracy, the separation of powers or the rule of law are under threat, every judge has the duty to speak out in defence of judicial independence and the constitutional order – including on politically sensitive issues. They may also address threats to judicial independence at international level. Judges speaking on behalf of a judicial council or association should enjoy a higher level of protection. The Opinion also stresses that individual judges – as well as judicial councils and associations – have an ethical duty to explain to the public the justice system, the functioning of the judiciary and its values in order to promote and preserve public trust in the judicial activity.
The Opinion will be transmitted to the Committee of Ministers in charge of ensuring its dissemination and fostering its application in all member states.
Freedom of expression of judges: Consultative Council of European Judges adopts new Opinion