Case summary

Rothe v. Austria


European Court of Human Rights
4 December 2012

Facts
The applicant Mr.Rothe was a deputy principal in a catholic seminary. A newspaper published an article alleging that he had been involved in homosexual relationship with one of the seminarians. The article was illustrated with pictures of Mr.Rothe kissing the seminarian. Mr.Rothe brought charges of defamation against the newspaper, but the national court dismissed those allegations. 

Complaint
Mr.Rothe complained that the national courts’ refusal to order him a compensation in respect of the publication of the article and photographs violated his right to private life.

Court’s ruling
The Court ruled that the public interest into publication prevailed over Mr.Rothe’s right to private life and accordingly there had been no violation of this right. 

The Court balanced the freedom of expression of the publisher against the right to private life of the applicant and found that the publication of the photographs showed an intimate moment of the applicant’s life. However:

  • The article and photo contributed to a debate of general interest as it concerned activities of major religious group and the applicant had an influential role in the Church.

  • The pictures were not made using illicit means.

  • The applicant had a possibility to challenge the lawfulness of the publication under other Austrian law provisions but he chose not to do so.

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