Global Freedom of Expression

Julio César Campillay v. La Razón

Closed Contracts Expression

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Press / Newspapers
  • Date of Decision
    May 15, 1986
  • Outcome
    Monetary Damages / Fines
  • Case Number
    Fallos: 308:789
  • Region & Country
    Argentina, Latin-America and Caribbean
  • Judicial Body
    Supreme (court of final appeal)
  • Type of Law
    Civil Law, Constitutional Law, International/Regional Human Rights Law
  • Themes
    Defamation / Reputation
  • Tags
    Civil Defamation, False News, Libel, Publisher

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Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

The Argentine Supreme Court upheld a sentence against three newspapers which had published information on the criminal charges alleged against an individual. Julio Campillay sued three newspapers for violating his fundamental rights by arguing that the articles negatively impacted his reputation, honor, and good name since the crime allegations were false. The Court established a test called the Campillay doctrine, through which the press could be exonerated for divulging information. It took into account the press’ proper attribution to the original source and the level of specificity in which the press presented the news. The Court reasoned that the three newspapers failed this test by presenting information as if it were the absolute truth.


Campillay sued three newspapers—Diario Popular, Crónica, and La Razón—for publishing information on an ongoing criminal investigation against him. Campillay was later acquitted of all charges. He argued that his honor had been deeply affected by the articles under the Argentine Constitution, while the newspapers claimed that the information (which was obtained from a federal police report) could not lead to their culpability, and that requiring verification of the truthfulness of such information would go against the freedom of the press and the public’s right to information.

Decision Overview

Por Mayoría (Majority Opinion). The Argentine Supreme Court confirmed the ruling against the newspapers. The Court determined that although great protection should be afforded to the right to freedom of expression, this could not translate into impunity of the press. The majority understood that the publication of the incorrect information, which was full of subjective and inaccurate writing, was an abuse of the right to give and receive information.

The Court declared that in order to rid themselves of the liability, the newspapers should have either very clearly established the source they were quoting, phrased the deeds as potentially inaccurate, or declined to provide the identity of those criminally implicated. This test has since become known as the Campillay doctrine. Because the newspapers presented the information as if they themselves had produced it, taking it for the absolute truth, the Court determined that they should be held liable for the harmed caused to the applicant.

Justices Caballero and Fayt dissented in separate opinions, stating that because the false information was not distributed with malice or neglect and the source was unquestionably trustworthy, the media should not be held liable and the freedom of the press should be upheld.

Decision Direction

Quick Info

Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.

Contracts Expression

The decision poses a threat to freedom of expression, in that the reliability of the source and the presence of actual malice were not considered.

Global Perspective

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Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.

Table of Authorities

Related International and/or regional laws

  • ACHR, art. 13

National standards, law or jurisprudence

  • Arg., Sup., Eduardo Pérez, Fallos: 257:308 (1963)
  • Arg., Sup., Criminal v. Teodoro Antilli, Fallos: 119:231 (1914)
  • Arg., Const. Nac. Article 32
  • Arg., Const. Nac. Article 33

Other national standards, law or jurisprudence

  • Fr., Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, Article 11 (1789)
  • U.S., Const. amend. I

Case Significance

Quick Info

Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.

This case did not set a binding or persuasive precedent either within or outside its jurisdiction. The significance of this case is undetermined at this point in time.

The decision was cited in:

Additional Citations:

  • Rep., OAS, Annual Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (1999)

    OEA/Ser.L/V/II.106, Doc. 6 rev., April 13, 1999.

Official Case Documents

Amicus Briefs and Other Legal Authorities


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