The case of R v Blackman revolved around a Royal Marines Sergeant
who killed a severely injured rebellious individual in Afghanistan. The
individual responsible for the death had his murder conviction abolished. Instead
the court ruled he would be charged with manslaughter on the grounds of diminished
responsibility. However, another marine had captured the events which lead to
the killing as well as the aftermath. The media then requested the court to
grant permission for the release of these video clips. Three of the six clips
were made accessible due to the Ministry of Defence(MoD) allowing the three but
rejected the application in regards to the others.
The court rejected this application, on the basis that if
such videos were made accessible for the public, then this would allow
terrorist groups to film such horrific incidents and use them as a way
encouraging terrorist activity.
Releasing this sort of material would provide such groups with a
“justification” for carrying out attacks against other countries and give them
an opportunity to back up their extremist views. They could persuade others
that western authorities were immoral and such countries did not abide by their
own rules and principles e.g. the military rules of engagement and the Geneva
Convention, highlighting that insurgents
are treated harshly on the battlefield. They would promote their ideologies
by arguing that if these authorities can kill then, when they carry out similar
acts they are justifiable. Therefore, if such video clips were released it
could pose a threat to life for the armed forces and the general public within
the UK and to any British interests overseas.
The MoD argued, that releasing the video clips would pose a
direct threat to the life of others and violated article 2. However, the media
stated that there was no direct threat to life under article 2 and that they
had the right to freedom of expression under article 10. It was held that in
fact article 2 held more weightage and was more significant in this case,
therefore the clips could not be published.
The court made an appropriate decision by rejecting the
application to release the clips. They had to outweigh whether article 2 or
article 10 was of supreme importance in this case, whilst protect the public
interest. Life holds a greater amount of significance than the right to
freedom. Where an individual’s life is in question, then any legal system
should prioritise that over any other right within the ECHR. As the MoD stated
that releasing such videos would create a threat to the life of others, then
the court had to prioritise this factor over the media’s right. Denying the
right to freedom of expression will not threatening anyone’s life, it may
frustrate an individual but not cause harm to their life. However, denying
article 2 would have a substantial effect e.g. violence which results to death.
Article 2 states that the law shall protect everyone’s right to life and this
has been demonstrated through this case.