(Application no. 29576/09)
17 January 2012
This judgment will become final in the circumstances set out in Article 44 § 2 of the Convention. It may be subject to editorial revision.
In the case of Lahtonen v. Finland,
The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:
Lech Garlicki, President,
David Thór Björgvinsson,
Nebojša Vučinić, judges,
and Lawrence Early, Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 13 December 2011,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
II. RELEVANT DOMESTIC LAW AND PRACTICE
“Everyone’s private life, honour and the sanctity of the home are guaranteed. More detailed provisions on the protection of personal data are laid down by an Act.
The secrecy of correspondence, telephony and other confidential communications is inviolable.
Measures encroaching on the sanctity of the home, and which are necessary for the purpose of guaranteeing basic rights and liberties or for the investigation of crime, may be laid down by an Act. In addition, provisions concerning limitations of the secrecy of communications which are necessary in the investigation of crimes that jeopardise the security of the individual or society or the sanctity of the home, at trials and security checks, as well as during the deprivation of liberty may be laid down by an Act.”
“Everyone has the freedom of expression. Freedom of expression entails the right to express, disseminate and receive information, opinions and other communications without prior prevention by anyone. More detailed provisions on the exercise of the freedom of expression are laid down by an Act. Provisions on restrictions relating to pictorial programmes that are necessary for the protection of children may be laid down by an Act.
Documents and recordings in the possession of the authorities are public, unless their publication has for compelling reasons been specifically restricted by an Act. Everyone has the right of access to public documents and recordings.”
“Dissemination of information violating private life: A person who unlawfully (1) through the use of the mass media, or (2) in another manner publicly spreads information, an insinuation or an image of the private life of another person, such that the act is likely to cause that person damage or suffering, or subject that person to contempt, shall be convicted of injuring personal reputation and sentenced to a fine or a maximum term of two years’ imprisonment.
The spreading of information, an insinuation or an image of the private life of a person in politics, business, public office or a public position, or in a comparable position, shall not constitute injury to personal reputation, if it could affect the evaluation of that person’s activities in the position in question and if it is necessary for the purposes of dealing with a matter of importance to society.”
32. According to the travaux préparatoires (see government bill HE 184/1999), the content of this provision corresponds to the former Chapter 27, section 3(a), of the Penal Code. The amendments and clarifications made to the existing provision were mainly technical. The provision thus still restricts the protection of the private life of persons exercising important political or economic powers. Functions in respect of which the protection of private life is narrower in scope under paragraph 2 include political functions, business functions and public functions or duties. The matter must have social significance. This restriction, however, applies only to the persons referred to, not to their close friends and family. According to the Parliamentary Law Committee’s Report (lakivaliokunnan mietintö, lagutskottets betänkande LaVM 6/2000), the purpose of that provision is to permit the dissemination of information on the private life of such persons if the information may be relevant in assessing the performance of their functions.
Provisions concerning publicity
“... the case files are to a large extent public and the publicity does not limit itself to publicity of oral hearings. On the other hand, in Finland the publicity of the case files does not automatically mean that all public documentation could as such, for example, without invading privacy, be published in the media. This right of the media to publish is limited not only by its self-regulation but also for example by the provisions of the Penal Code concerning the protection of privacy. It can, thus, be said that publicity is wider and the control of the protection of privacy is done mostly retrospectively. It is for the media themselves to consider which of the public documentation they shall publish.”
Provisions concerning liability
Self-regulation of journalists
III. RELEVANT INTERNATIONAL MATERIALS
“The public must be able to receive information about the activities of judicial authorities and police services through the media. Therefore, journalists must be able to freely report and comment on the functioning of the criminal justice system, subject only to the limitations provided for under the following principles.
Respect for the principle of the presumption of innocence is an integral part of the right to a fair trial. Accordingly, opinions and information relating to on-going criminal proceedings should only be communicated or disseminated through the media where this does not prejudice the presumption of innocence of the suspect or accused.
The provision of information about suspects, accused or convicted persons or other parties to criminal proceedings should respect their right to protection of privacy in accordance with Article 8 of the Convention. Particular protection should be given to parties who are minors or other vulnerable persons, as well as to victims, to witnesses and to the families of suspects, accused and convicted. In all cases, particular consideration should be given to the harmful effect which the disclosure of information enabling their identification may have on the persons referred to in this Principle.”
I. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 10 OF THE CONVENTION
“1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent states from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.
2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.”
1. The parties’ submissions
2. The Court’s assessment
1. Whether there was an interference
2. Whether it was prescribed by law and pursued a legitimate aim
3. Whether the interference was necessary in a democratic society
II. REMAINDER OF THE APPLICATION
III. APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 41 OF THE CONVENTION
“If the Court finds that there has been a violation of the Convention or the Protocols thereto, and if the internal law of the High Contracting Party concerned allows only partial reparation to be made, the Court shall, if necessary, afford just satisfaction to the injured party.”
B. Costs and expenses
C. Default interest
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT UNANIMOUSLY
(a) that the respondent State is to pay the applicant, within three months from the date on which the judgment becomes final in accordance with Article 44 § 2 of the Convention, the following amounts:
(i) EUR 5,650 (five thousand six hundred and fifty euros), plus any tax that may be chargeable, in respect of pecuniary damage;
(ii) EUR 2,000 (two thousand euros), plus any tax that may be chargeable, in respect of non-pecuniary damage;
(b) that from the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until settlement simple interest shall be payable on the above amounts at a rate equal to the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank during the default period plus three percentage points;
Done in English, and notified in writing on 17 January 2012, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
Lawrence Early Lech Garlicki