Resolution 1165 (1998)
Right to privacy
1. The Assembly recalls the current
affairs debate it held on the right to privacy during its September 1997
session, a few weeks after the accident which cost the Princess of Wales her
2. On that occasion, some people
called for the protection of privacy, and in particular that of public
figures, to be reinforced at the European level by means of a convention,
while others believed that privacy was sufficiently protected by national
legislation and the European Convention on Human Rights, and that freedom of
expression should not be jeopardised.
3. In order to explore the matter
further, the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights organised a hearing
in Paris on 16 December 1997 with the participation of public figures or
their representatives and the media.
4. The right to privacy, guaranteed
by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, has already been
defined by the Assembly in the declaration on mass communication media and
human rights, contained within
Resolution 428 (1970),
as the right to live ones own life with a minimum of interference.
5. In view of the new communication
technologies which make it possible to store and use personal data, the
right to control ones own data should be added to this definition.
6. The Assembly is aware that
personal privacy is often invaded, even in countries with specific
legislation to protect it, as people's private lives have become a highly
lucrative commodity for certain sectors of the media. The victims are
essentially public figures, since details of their private lives serve as a
stimulus to sales. At the same time, public figures must recognise that the
position they occupy in society in many cases by choice automatically
entails increased pressure on their privacy.
7. Public figures are persons
holding public office and/or using public resources and, more broadly
speaking, all those who play a role in public life, whether in politics, the
economy, the arts, the social sphere, sport or in any other domain.
8. It is often
in the name of a one-sided interpretation of the right to freedom of
expression, which is guaranteed in Article 10 of the European Convention on
Human Rights, that the media invade peoples privacy, claiming that their
readers are entitled to know everything about public figures.
9. Certain facts relating to the
private lives of public figures, particularly politicians, may indeed be of
interest to citizens, and it may therefore be legitimate for readers, who
are also voters, to be informed of those facts.
10. It is therefore necessary to
find a way of balancing the exercise of two fundamental rights, both of
which are guaranteed in the European Convention on Human Rights: the right
to respect for ones private life and the right to freedom of expression.
11. The Assembly reaffirms the
importance of every person's right to privacy, and of the right to freedom
of expression, as fundamental to a democratic society. These rights are
neither absolute nor in any hierarchical order, since they are of equal
12. However, the Assembly points out
that the right to privacy afforded by Article 8 of the European Convention
on Human Rights should not only protect an individual against interference
by public authorities, but also against interference by private persons or
institutions, including the mass media.
13. The Assembly believes that,
since all member states have now ratified the European Convention on Human
Rights, and since many systems of national legislation comprise provisions
guaranteeing this protection, there is no need to propose that a new
convention guaranteeing the right to privacy should be adopted.
14. The Assembly calls upon the
governments of the member states to pass legislation, if no such legislation
yet exists, guaranteeing the right to privacy containing the following
guidelines, or if such legislation already exists, to supplement it with
possibility of taking an action under
civil law should be guaranteed, to enable a victim to
claim possible damages for invasion of privacy;
ii. editors and journalists
should be rendered liable for invasions of privacy by their
publications, as they are for libel;
iii. when editors have published
information that proves to be false, they should be required to publish
equally prominent corrections at the request of those concerned;
iv. economic penalties should be
envisaged for publishing groups which systematically invade peoples
v. following or chasing persons
to photograph, film or record them, in such a manner that they are
prevented from enjoying the normal peace and quiet they expect in their
private lives or even such that they are caused actual physical harm,
should be prohibited;
vi. a civil action (private
lawsuit) by the victim should be allowed against a photographer or a
person directly involved, where paparazzi have trespassed or used
"visual or auditory enhancement devices" to capture recordings that they
otherwise could not have captured without trespassing;
vii. provision should be made
for anyone who knows that information or images relating to his or her
private life are about to be disseminated to initiate emergency judicial
proceedings, such as summary applications for an
interim order or an injunction postponing the dissemination of the
information, subject to an assessment by the court as to the merits of
the claim of an invasion of privacy;
viii. the media should be
encouraged to create their own guidelines for publication and to set up
an institute with which an individual can lodge complaints of invasion
of privacy and demand that a rectification be published.
15. It invites those governments
which have not yet done so to ratify without delay the Council of Europe
Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic
Processing of Personal Data.
16. The Assembly also calls upon the
governments of the member states to:
i. encourage the professional
bodies that represent journalists to draw up certain criteria for entry
to the profession, as well as standards for self-regulation and a code
of journalistic conduct;
ii. promote the inclusion in
journalism training programmes of a course in law, highlighting the
importance of the right to privacy vis-à-vis society as a whole;
iii. foster the development of
media education on a wider scale, as part of education about human
rights and responsibilities, in order to raise media users' awareness of
what the right to privacy necessarily entails;
iv. facilitate access to the
courts and simplify the legal procedures relating to press offences, in
order to ensure that victims' rights are better protected.
debate on 26 June 1998 (24th Sitting). See Doc. 8130, report of
the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights (rapporteur: Mr Schwimmer),
Doc. 8147, opinion of the Committee on Culture and Education (rapporteur: Mr
Staes) and Doc. 8146, opinion of the Social, Health and Family Affairs
Committee (rapporteur: Mr Mitterrand).
Text adopted by the Assembly on 26 June 1998 (24th Sitting).