The applicants were a publishing company, Kustannusosakeyhtiö Iltalehti, and the publishing company’s editor-in-chief, Mr Karhuvaara. Several articles were published in one of the newspapers of the publishing company about a criminal trial concerning the drunken and disorderly behavior of Mr A., who was a husband of a Member of the Finnish Parliament Mrs A. Name of Mrs A. and relevant details of her life were also mentioned in the articles and a television program. Mrs A. brought proceedings against the applicants for an infringement of her privacy. Mr Karhuvaara was convicted of infringement of privacy in particularly aggravating circumstances (because Mrs A. was a Member of Parliament) and ordered to pay damages.
The applicants alleged a violation of their freedom of expression due to their conviction and the order requiring them to pay damages.
The Court ruled that the applicants’ freedom of expression had been violated, as the limitation was not necessary.
The Court found that:
The limits of permissible criticism are broader as regards politicians. Mrs A. as a politician had to tolerate more from the press than “the average citizen”.
Although the subject matter of the reporting was not directly linked to political issues or with Mrs. A. as a politician, the right of the public to be informed extends to the aspects of the private life of public figures. Besides:
- The articles did not contain any allegations of Mrs A.’s involvement in the events leading to Mr A.’s conviction, or any other kinds of allegations against Mrs A.
- No details of Mrs A.’s private life were mentioned, except that she was married to Mr A., which was already public knowledge.
- No criticism of Mrs A. was suggested.
- It had not been claimed that the publication in connection with the criminal proceedings against Mr A. in any way affected Mrs A.’s freedom of speech or was capable of limiting free parliamentary debate.
- The articles did not disclose Mrs A.’s identity in the context of criminal proceedings for the first time.
- There was no evidence of factual misrepresentation or bad faith on the part of the applicants.