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Thursday, July 28, 2005

Germany: mind your photographs!

On Thursday Princess Caroline von Hannover and Germany reached a friendly settlement in one of the most controversial cases in media law. Germany will pay 115,000 Euro to Caroline, 105,000 for cost and expenses and 10,000 Euro for non-pecuniary damage. The impetus of the case were photographs appearing in German magazines showing Caroline shopping, riding or biking. According to Netzeitung (in German) in particular photos showing Caroline with a bald head triggered her to fight against the paparazzi.

The corresponding decision of the European Court of Human Rights is already one year old. In June 2004 the court ruled that "there had been a violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private life) of the Convention, in that the German courts had failed effectively to protect the applicant's private life against interferences resulting from the publication by various German magazines of photos of her in her daily life." With this ruling the court disagreed with former rulings from German courts, notably one from the German Federal Constitutional Court which ruled that celebrities would have to accept the publication of photographs also without their consent, albeit with some restrictions, reports FAZ.net (in German).

According to Newsclick (in German) German media claim that the decision constitutes a charter to censorship. But despite pressure from publishers and broadcasting stations the German government did not appeal against the judgment. Thereupon the media accused the government of sacrificing press freedom in their own interest. However, there seems to be some uncertainty among German journalists as to which ruling, that of the European Court of Human Rights or that of the Federal Constitutional Court, should guide their work. As stated by Newsclick it is very likely that many photographs and articles are already not published for fear of proceedings.

Sources: FAZ.net (in German), Netzeitung (in German), European Court of Human Rights, Newsclick (in German)

Posted by Anna-Maria Mende on July 28, 2005 at 06:04 PM in g. Photojournalism, o. Ethics and Press Freedom | Permalink

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