European Court of Human Rights upholds appeal against France by Paris-Match

By Ben Hobbs

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has upheld an appeal brought against France in respect of the French courts’ decisions in favour of Prince Albert of Monaco, against Paris-Match.

In May 2005, Paris-Match published an article claiming that Prince Albert had an illegitimate son. The prince’s French privacy claims succeeded because the Constitution of Monaco does not allow an illegitimate child to become monarch. As a consequence, the French courts determined there was no debate of general interest and Paris-Match was ordered to pay €50,000 (£40,000) and publish a full front-page feature, including details of the judgment. The conditions in respect of the feature were lessened on appeal, but the overall judgment was upheld.

The key challenge for the ECHR was to determine whether the article contributed to a debate of general interest. While three judges believed the main purpose of the article was to appeal to public curiosity about Prince Albert’s private life, four judges ruled that there was a debate of general interest and therefore the French court judgments constituted an infringement of Paris-Match’s Article 10 rights to freedom of expression. While the prince was entitled to privacy, because of his political position, the ECHR’s view was that such individuals need to display a greater degree of tolerance…

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