Freedom of expression vs privacy

Freedom of expression may collide with the right of other persons to keep their private life away from the public eye. Therefore, it is necessary to draw a balance between the right to inform society about issues of public interest and an individual’s right to private life.

In case of a dispute, courts can impose restrictions and sanctions for releasing statements or publications that violate the privacy of a person for no valid reason. In this case, the freedom of expression of one person is restricted to protect the privacy of another person.

Right to private life

The right to private life includes domestic life, including keeping your whereabouts , your correspondence, state of health and other aspects of non-public life private. Revealing aspects of someone’s private life may be intrusive and violate someone’s privacy, which may have negative or harmful consequences.

In most cases, where a publication intrudes into someone’s private life, the information revealed is true. However, even if that is the case, the publication of private information may sometimes be prohibited in order to respect the privacy of an individual.

Status of person & Public interest

In some cases, there might be good reason for revealing details of someone’s private life. For example, when it concerns an issue important to society at large and when it contributes to public debate.

What can be revealed and when it serves the public interest should be assessed in each individual case. The status of the person involved is linked to the public interest in his/her private life. In the case of a public figure whose actions involve a high level of public interest, the intrusion in their private life will be evaluated less strictly than in the case of an unknown private individual.

Lawful restriction

In the case of a violation of privacy, any measure or sanction imposed by the court that restricts the freedom of expression of the author or publisher must be lawful. This means the measure or sanction must:

  • be provided in law
  • serve the legitimate aim of protecting the privacy of others
  • be necessary and proportional

About this section

In this section you can read more about aspects that are important to consider in determining whether a certain publication has or has not violated the right of others to their private life.

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