The applicants, two Austrian daily newspapers published identity, family details and pictures showing pain and despair of a child, whose parents were fighting over his custody. Upon the complaint of the mother, national courts ordered the newspapers to pay compensation to the family for the violation of privacy.
The applicants claimed that the judgments ordering them to pay compensation violated their freedom of expression.
The Court ruled that Austrian courts had not violated the freedom of expression of the applicants, as the courts were protecting the private life of the child and this restriction was found to be proportionate.
The Court found that:
The interference was prescribed by law and had a legitimate aim – the protection of the reputation and the right to private life of others.
The child or his parents were not public figures and they did not enter the public debate willingly.
Revealing their identity was not needed to raise a public debate about an appropriate enforcement of custody decisions.
The publication of photographs of the child for the sole purpose of satisfying the curiosity of a particular readership did not contribute to any debate of general interest to society.
The fact that the newspapers had posted many articles and photographs of the child available to a wide audience made the interference with the child’s private life even more intense.