ICCPR Case Digest




Submission: 2017.08.11

View Adopted: 2022.07.08

S.M. v. Bosnia and Hezergovina

Journalist invokes right of access to information in violation of the right to privacy of third persons

Substantive Issues
  • Access to information
Relevant Articles
  • Article 14
  • Article 19
  • Article 2
  • Article 25
Full Text


The author, as a freelance journalist, made requests to the University of Banja Luka for specific data relating to its teaching performance. His aim was to inform the public of the quality of the work of public bodies and the manner and reasoning behind their decision-making. The university refused the author’s requests, invoking an exemption from disclosure – when the requested information involves personal interests that relate to the privacy of a third person. The District Court upheld the University’s reasoning that it was the right of all members of the Steering Board to vote on individual questions on the daily agenda and to express their conclusions and opinions without any pressure on their decision-making and that there was no public interest in the case that would warrant disclosing the information. The author submits that the reasoning is contrary to the established jurisprudence of the Committee, because it makes the right of access to information not only difficult, slow, impractical and ineffective, but also purely theoretical, abstract and almost nonexistent. He sought the information in his capacity as a freelance journalist, with the intention of informing the public on questions of public interest. Thus, the author claims that the State party violated his right to a fair trial under article 14 since the decisions in relation to his complaints were inadequately explained and suffered from manifestly wrong and arbitrary interpretation of the legislation. Furthermore, the author claims a violation of article 19 due to the limitation of his access to information by the State party. Lastly, the author alleges a violation of his rights under article 25 because he has been prevented from participating in the democratic process and from achieving his journalistic right and obligation to inform the public on issues of public interest.


With regard to articles 14 and 25, the author has not provided sufficient information to substantiate his claim, thus the communication is inadmissible under article 2 of the Optional Protocol. With regard to article 19, the author has not substantiated how the information sought is of public interest. Furthermore, the University has published cumulative results of the survey by posting them in the rooms of the academy. In view of the elements available on file, the Committee cannot conclude that the detailed and specific information requested by the author, including with regard to the result of the students’ surveys, which involved personal and protected data, was of a public nature.


By Maricon Torres Lorenzo

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