The applicant company, Hachette Filipacchi Associés, was a publisher of a weekly magazine which published a photograph of the dead body of the Prefect of Corsica just after he was murdered. Relatives of the Prefect sought injunctions against the applicant and other companies. The French courts issued the injunction, noting that publication of the photograph constituted a gross disturbance of the private life of the Prefect’s family. It ordered the applicant company to publish in its newspaper a statement informing readers that the photograph had been published without the consent of the Prefect’s family, who considered its publication an intrusion into their grief and, accordingly, into intimacy of their private life.
The applicant company complained that the injunction violated its freedom of expression.
The Court ruled that the injunction did not violate the freedom of expression of the applicant as it was proportionate in order to protect the right to private and family life of Prefect’s relatives.
The Court emphasized that a death of a close relative and the ensuing mourning are a source of intense grief and must sometimes lead the authorities to take the necessary measures to ensure that the private and family lives of the persons concerned are respected.
The Court noted that the injunction had been prescribed by law and was aimed at protection of the right to respect for private and family life of Prefect’s relatives.
The injunction was also necessary and proportionate in order to protect these legitimate interests:
The picture was published only thirteen days after Prefect’s murder and ten days after his funeral.
The distress of Prefect’s close relatives should have led journalists to exercise prudence and caution. The publication of the picture in a widely distributed magazine only heightened the trauma felt by the victim’s close relatives.
The French courts had applied the least restrictive measure possible against the applicant.
The applicant failed to show in what way the order to publish the statement had actually had a dissuasive effect on newspaper’s freedom of expression.