Flinkkilä and Others v. Finland
European Court of Human Rights
6 April 2010
The applicants were journalists who published articles about an incident involving a high level state official A., his wife and his female friend outside the state official’s house. Articles contained name and picture of the female friend of the state official, against whom charges were brought due to the incident. The journalists were convicted for invasion into of the private life of the state official’s female friend.
The journalists complained that their freedom of expression had been violated as they were punished for reporting on a high profile criminal case involving a state official.
The Court ruled that the interest of society in the publication of the image in the present case was more important than the need to protect the private life of the state official’s female friend. Thus the convictions of the journalists violated their freedom of expression.
The Court balanced the freedom of expression of journalists against the right to private life of the state official’s friend and found that:
- The information published was a matter of public interest, as it concerned an incident involving the state official.
- Female friend of the state official was not a public figure, however, she was involved in a public dispute with a public figure with whom she had relationship and thus she had entered the public sphere.
- Information published was limited only to her conviction and her involvement in the dispute with the state official.
- There was no evidence of factual misrepresentation or bad faith on the part of the journalists.
- Details about the female friend of the state official was not obtained by using illicit means.