European Court of Human Rights
7 February 2012

Facts

The national courts refused to forbid the publication of a private picture of the family of the reigning prince of Monaco, taken without their consent during their holidays. The picture was published together with an article about prince’s poor health. The courts considered that the question of reigning prince’s state of health was a subject of general interest.

Complaint

The applicants complained that the refusal by the German courts to grant an injunction against a publication of the photo violated their right to private life.

Court's ruling

The Court found that the German courts had struck a fair balance between the freedom of expression of the newspapers and the right to private life of the applicants guaranteed in the Article 8 of the Convention.

It was accepted that the refusal to grant the injunction interfered with the right to private life of the applicants.

However, the Court found that:

  • The applicants had to be regarded as public figures with less expectations of privacy than other persons.
  • The reigning prince’s illness was of public concern as an event of contemporary society, and thus accepted that the photograph, considered in the light of the article, did at least to some degree contribute to a debate of general interest.
  • The fact that the photos had been taken without the applicants’ knowledge did not necessarily mean that they had been taken surreptitiously or illegally in conditions unfavourable to the applicants.

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