13 February 2012
Media interest in celebrities lives is legitimate European court rules
The Guardian reported
The private lives of celebrities are of legitimate interest to the media, the European court of human rights (ECHR) has ruled in landmark judgments involving a cocaine-possessing German TV actor and Princess Caroline of Monaco.
The decisions by the Strasbourg court establish significant legal precedents for privacy cases in British courts, tipping the balance back towards freedom of expression.
In both cases the judges said that as long as the media carried out a reasonable balancing exercise, considering privacy issues, they should be able to publish stories about and photographs of "well-known people".
The fine imposed on the mass-circulation German newspaper Bild for reporting the arrest of the German actor on drug charges at the Munich Beer festival had had a "chilling effect", the Strasbourg court ruled. The "well-known" actor, who played the part of a heroic police superintendent, was referred to only as X throughout the judgment.
The UK-based Media Legal Defence Initiative was among groups that submitted comments to the hearing, arguing that Article 8 of the European convention on human rights, guaranteeing right to private and family life should not trump free speech.
Lawyers for Princess Caroline von Hannover, the daughter of the late Prince Rainier of Monaco, had complained that photographs of her represented an invasion of her private life.
Earlier judgments had supported her applications for injunctions against a magazine that used pictures of her and her husband during a skiing holiday. She claimed they had been taken without her consent.
But one article showed the couple taking a walk during their skiing holiday in St Moritz and was accompanied by a story reporting on the poor health of Prince Rainier. The German courts declined to support her complaints about that article.
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