European Human Rights Privacy Policy And Media’s Apprehensions

European Human Rights Privacy Policy And Media’s Apprehensions

 It’s “Human Rights Privacy Policy versus freedom of media functioning” in European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) today. Sensing its potentiality to handicap media’s freeness to unearth the truth, legal fraternity has vehemently opposed to introduction of this privacy criteria.

The Actual Criteria:

The criteria refers to whether the substance is of general interest, whether the person involved is prominent, how information was accessed, and what would be the consequences if published; this has already been defined in a German court in 2012 involving Axel Springer, a publisher. Only one sub-clause deals with truthfulness.

Strausbourg Court has pronounced a number of judgments, and, in all these, Hugh Tomlinson QC, a leading media and privacy expert, finds overlapping between privacy and defamation.

Free Speech Organization Index On Censorship has also supported this, saying that ECHR judgments guided by this privacy policy could imperil “investigative journalism” in Europe, if this is going to be the trend.

Crusades of Tomlinson QC:

In one article dealing with legalities in cases concerning Television and newspapers in Austria, Hungary and Finland, Tomlinson QC has also questioned application of these privacy policy criteria in defamation and unjust complaint cases. He has further pointed out that three recent judgments of ECHR do not appear to be guided by truth and verification, but based on balancing principle.

Tomlinson contends saying that here only genuineness in the complaint matters, and not the means of getting informations or the popularity of the person involved.

To reiterate that newspapers were responsible, he quotes the example of an Austrian newspaper which made allegations on two politicians contesting an election. While seeking their responses, he said, the newsmen didn’t assert they were true. He also lauded the newspaper for such responsible conduct and for following what he said, journalistic ethics in such cases.

He also observed that the criteria if applied outside the intended area, may mislead the court.

About the cases where the ECHR tried balancing between Article 8 (right to family life, privacy and reputation) and Article 10(freedom of expression) by invoking privacy policy was, no doubt, out of tune with the issues involved.

Padraig of Index of Censorship’s view is “age-old overlap between privacy and defamation, though justifying some form of curbing, cannot be allowed to be overreached. Test of truth only should prevail, according to him.

Reaching out to true details, the bedrock of investigative journalism, should not be dubbed as breach of privacy leading to defamation. Some politicians in UK are hotly debating about wider privacy regulations for suppressing some publications. This cannot be a healthy trend, according to journalists.

Some countries like France have already strongly built privacy laws, not allowing intrusions.

Last, but not the least, the ECHR has also been criticized for stepping too far by Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling.