After spending a worthwhile 2 hours with the Ukrainian tax man yesterday I bumped into a journalist friend who works for one of the local newspapers.
Working hard like all Ukrainian journalists, he had time to go for a coffee and sit and chat. Inevitably the subject of freedom of the press arose as did the right to privacy.
In effect, Article 10 of the European Human Rights Convention vis a vis Article 8.
Article 10 basically provides the right to freedom of expression, subject to certain restrictions that are “in accordance with law” and “necessary in a democratic society”. This right includes the freedom to hold opinions, and to receive and impart information and ideas, but allows restrictions for the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, prevention of disorder or crime, protection of health or morals, protection of the reputation or the rights of others, preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence and maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.
In a nutshell this Article protects the freedom of the press to report.
Article 8 provides a right to respect for one’s “private and family life, his home and his correspondence”, subject to certain restrictions that are “in accordance with law” and “necessary in a democratic society”. It is under this Article that the right to permanent residency in Ukraine through marriage, parenthood etc is founded.
The issue debated between us was “the right to freedom of expression with the protection of the reputation or the rights of others” within Article 10 and ”the right to a private and family life, his home and his correspondence” provided under Article 8.
The grey area of what is interesting to the public verses what is in the public interest. Where does a public figure’s life become absolutely private? Only within their four walls? Or does what happen within their four walls also fall within Article 10′s freedom of expression if a public figure is having wild romps with $1000 per hour escorts in a bath full of lukewarm baked beans to get their jollies?
Personally I really don’t care if a public figure is having an affair or not. I do not care if they are getting their jollies in a bath full of lukewarm baked beans either. All I care about is if that are on my tax-paying clock they do that job to the best of their ability during working hours or if they are a performer, I come away from their show feeling I got my money’s worth.
I really don’t see what they do in their private life, not matter how bizarre as long as it is legal, is newsworthy or interesting. What they do whilst being paid with my money in their professional working hours and public figure capacity is.
Too liberal on my part? Should I care more that “political X” frolics with highly paid escorts in a bath of baked beans funded by his or her own money (not mine), or should I care that the same politician X pulls off a wonderful piece of statesmanship that supports my interests before or after enjoying the bizarreness of a lukewarm bath of baked beans with a buxom nymphomaniac?
Should there be a presumption that Article 8 trumps Article 10 or that Article 10 trumps Article 8? Is this a judgement for the editor or the courts, or both if the editors decision is subsequently challenged, despite a possible wrong having already been done by publishing.
Even if, and sadly it is not always the case, it happens to be true and the facts are checked and corroborated by the press, that public figure X enjoys a bath of lukewarm baked beans with hired partners, if it happens in their own home and no laws are broken, should this be front page news?
Although it wouldn’t be interesting to me, to others it would be interesting. But interesting to the public is not the same the as in the public interest. There are enough nefarious and opaque dealings far more interesting and quite probably of public interest that occur in the corridors of power that never see the light of day let alone the front page of a newspaper.
So a question for you dear readers, should Article 10 take precedence over Article 8 or vice versa?
I tend to think it is a case by case or story by story judgement but if the wrong decision is made by an editor either a somebody’s character is besmirched unnecessarily or a genuine story with good cause for publication is squashed.
How do you stop an anonymous blogger like me, quite possibly hiding their IP address as well, writing what they like anyway? My host and server have no idea who I am or where to find me, so going after them to track me down would be pointless.
Even more of a conundrum now?