POLICY POSITION published on 05 May 2017

European Court of Human Rights rules on balance between right to private life and freedom of expression

On 21 February 2017, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) determined that Spain had violated the right to respect for private life, as enshrined in Art. 8 European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR) of Ms. Rubio Dosamantes,  well-known in Spain under the name of Paulina Rubio.

Ms. Rubio had challenged several TV programmes broadcast in the spring of 2005 that had reported on various aspects of her private life such as her sexual orientation, the relationship with her boyfriend and his drug abuse. The Spanish courts had considered that the programmes had not impugned her honour and reputation.

Referring to its own case law, and notably the criteria set in its second Von Hannover decision of 2012, the ECtHR observed that the comments had been frivolous, unverified and had exclusively concerned Ms. Rubio’s private life. Furthermore, they had not contributed to a debate of public interest that would have justified their disclosure.

The Court also underscored the media’s duty of care when reporting on aspects pertaining to a person’s private life. It made clear that the “spreading of unverified rumours or the limitless broadcasting of random comments on any possible aspect of a person’s daily life could not be seen as harmless”. The media is required to balance the competing rights of Article 8 ECHR, a person's right to respect for their private life and Article 10 ECHR, the media's right to freedom of expression including the public’s right to information, when determining whether or not to publish or air information. The ECtHR concluded that the Spanish courts had violated their positive obligation in this respect.


Contact detail

Jenny Weinand
Senior Legal Counsel
+41 22 717 2420