The applicant, Mr. Mitkus, alleged that he had been infected with HIV and hepatitis C while in prison. He wanted the trials concerning this issue to be open for society, but did not wish his identity to be revealed by media. After the first trial a newspaper published an article about the trial which mentioned the first name of Mr. Mitkus and was illustrated by picture of him in the courtroom. Mr. Mitkus lodged a claim for compensation against the newspaper in the court. In its judgment about the publication the court held that the media were not subject to the data protection legislation and that there were no legal grounds for compensating the non-pecuniary damage allegedly caused to the applicant by the publication.
Mr. Mitkus complained that the article in newspaper which had disclosed information about his HIV infection had violated his privacy.
The Court ruled that the Latvian courts had violated the privacy of Mr. Mitkus, as they had not struck a fair balance between journalistic freedom and the applicant’s rights.
While the Court recognized that informing the general public about such topical trials like the case of Mr. Mitkus is indeed a worthy cause, it found that the Latvian courts had not struck a fair balance between journalistic freedom and the applicant’s private life:
Mr. Mitkus was not a public figure.
The applicant had asked not to be filmed or photographed during the trial against Central Prison and this fact was clearly established.
The article contained a picture and mentioned the applicant’s first name and the first letter of his surname as well as details of his past criminal convictions and his place of imprisonment. Thus his identification by his fellow prisoners and other persons was perfectly possible.
Information about a person’s health, specifically regarding a person’s HIV status, is a medical data confidentiality of which shall be respected. However, in the present case everyone could learn that the applicant suffered from HIV.
The article would not lose its value if the picture would not have been published.