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By the end of 2017, a Romanian NGO financed some banners that can be easily interpreted as against vaccination (like this one - the first line says "vaccines are not safe").

According to this article, there is a serious measles outbreak in Romania:

Romania has seen nearly 2,000 cases of measles since February 2016, World Health Organization data shows.

The country’s vaccination rate is 86 per cent, well below the 95 per cent recommended for “herd immunity” against infectious disease.

(number of cases raised to almost 10K in the mean time)

Also, according to this article, there is a growing body of evidence that failing to vaccinate children is actively harmful.

Assuming the Government/Parliament uses this information to justify restriction of freedom of speech, by creating laws that punish those that use media (TV, radio, banners etc.) to promote anti-vaccination, I am wondering if this can be obtained.

Currently, the Constitution mentions the following exception for freedom of expression:

  • not be prejudicial to the dignity, honour, privacy of a person, and to the right to one's own image.
  • Any defamation of the country and the nation, any instigation to a war of aggression, to national, racial, class or religious hatred, any incitement to discrimination, territorial separatism, or public violence, as well as any obscene conduct contrary to morality shall be prohibited by law.
  • (...)

So, I could not find anything related to public health (or similar).

Theoretically, the Parliament (or the Government through ordinance) may issue a law to introduce such a restriction, but I am wondering if this does not clash with some agreement/law at EU level.

Question: Can an EU country government extend exception list for freedom of expression?

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From a supra-national position, Romania is a member of the Council of Europe, and subject to Article 10 of the Convention on Human Rights. This article requires the state to allow for freedom of expression

... subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, ...

At the European level (not EU) it is considered reasonable for a government to impose restrictions or conditions necessary for the protection of health.

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I don't mean to reopen this thread. James K answer is perfectly acceptable but as in so many other controversies one related to the subject of your question has also made a trip to the European Court last year (2017).

The court ruled that vaccines can be blamed for causing illnesses even if there is no [direct] scientific proof. This does not imply absence of evidence. In the press release the following was mentioned:

Where there is a lack of scientific consensus, the proof of the defect of the vaccine and of a causal link between the defect and the damage suffered may be made out by serious, specific and consistent evidence.

The temporal proximity between the administering of a vaccine and the occurrence of a disease, the lack of personal and familial history of the person vaccinated and the existence of a significant number of reported cases of the disease occurring following such vaccines being administered may, where applicable, constitute sufficient evidence to make out such proof.

As you can probably guess this raised alarms everywhere (Science Magazine):

Did the European Union’s highest court just deal a blow to science? "Vaccines can be blamed for illness without scientific proof," read many headlines about the European Court of Justice’s (ECJ’s) ruling on the case of a French man who claimed that a hepatitis B vaccine caused his multiple sclerosis (MS). Alarmed experts pointed out that no link between the vaccine and MS has ever been established and fretted that the Luxembourg-based court had opened the floodgates to large numbers of spurious lawsuits.

But the Court decision, while shocking when you first ear it, is not that unreasonable. Finding direct scientific evidence of the association between a vaccine and a disease puts an impossible burden on the complainer. What the court decided was that when credible evidence (not proof) is presented the blame can be made. As explained by others (Nature):

The ECJ's judgment said that EU laws do not stop courts from considering "serious, specific and consistent" circumstantial evidence in such cases, alongside scientific evidence.

The court emphasized that liability claims for vaccine harm must be considered on a case-by-case basis. It also ruled that the burden of proof remained on plaintiffs (the man's family, in this case) and that courts must consider relevant evidence from medical research. These caveats are important, says Alex Stein, an expert in civil liability law and medical evidence at Brooklyn Law School in New York. "Under this framework, credible medical evidence showing that the vaccine is safe will win the case," he says. "Those who say that the ECJ decision has opened a floodgate for multiple vaccine liability suits are therefore mistaken."

The judgment does not mean that vaccines can be blamed for illness without scientific evidence, or that spurious cases can win when the scientific evidence is against them, says Stein. Vaccine makers, as defendants, will ensure that courts hear the most compelling medical evidence in their favour, he adds.

This obviously has an impact in the current debate between pro and against vaccine movements. And certainly the increasing number of deaths due to measles outbreaks in Romania does not help. But accordingly to the European Court not only can people speak against vaccines, they can sue the producers of these vaccines (however not be mistaken by an act of Defamation which has a fully separate legal framework).

Perhaps is for the best. This, like many other subjects, should be decided considering arguments, not laws. And it might even lead to a better regulation over vaccination.

  • "I don't mean to reopen this thread" - StackExcahnge sites are Q&A sites, where answers can compete. It's perfectly reasonable to add an another answer, especially when you show where it differs from existing answers. Having sources for those differences is even better. However, Alexie's question was not directly about vaccines but about restrictions on the freedom of speech. – MSalters Jan 31 '18 at 23:28

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