MGN Limited v. the United Kingdom

(Freedom of expression & Media – Prior release of information by the person concerned)
European Court of Human Rights
18 January 2011


The applicant, a publisher of a newspaper, published information about a drug addiction of a famous model. There was a photo added to the article showing the model coming out of the premises of Narcotics Anonymous (NA) center. The model sued the applicant for a breach of her privacy. The national courts found the applicant guilty and ordered the company to pay damages to the model stating that the publication of details of the model’s treatment in the NA and the secretly taken photographs was an invasion in her private life.


The applicant company alleged that the punishment for the publication of the photographs violated its right to freedom of expression.

Court's ruling

The Court ruled that the model’s right to private life outweighed the applicant’s right to freedom of expression. Thus there had not been a violation of the applicant’s freedom of expression.

The Court found that the national courts had given good enough reasons why the pictures should not have been published, taking into account the pre-eminent role of the press in society. The Court then balanced the freedom of expression of the applicant against the right to private life of the model and found that: 

The model had previously publicly denied the drug use, and thus the core facts of the drug addiction and treatment were a matter of public interest and capable of being published.

However, it shall be distinguished between, on the one hand, private information which the model had already made public by herself and which was therefore the subject of a public debate and, on the other, the additional information which she had not made public.

In the present case, the photographs had been taken covertly and were of intimate and private nature.

The public interest had been already satisfied by the publication of the core facts of the model’s addiction and treatment in article.

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Last updated 08/11/2023