Paris call for global privacy law

THE PARIS Bar has called for the introduction of a global privacy law in the aftermath of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, and Dodi Fayed.

And, as The Lawyer went to press, the largely French-speaking international lawyers group, the Union Internationale des Avocats (UIA), looked set to lend its weight to the Paris Bar's demands by adopting a resolution calling for international privacy regulations.

The move is set to pit the UIA against the International Bar Association (IBA), which would be firmly against such a move.

Bernard Vatier, head of the Paris Bar, said the stringent privacy laws governing France had been highlighted as ineffective by the tragedy.

He told The Lawyer: “Even if the French laws on 'respect for private life' offer one of the most efficient protections in Europe, it is necessary to go further because the communication media, the press and TV, go beyond national boundaries.

“Taking a photo in St Tropez in an unlawful manner does not stop the lawful publication of the photo in London.

“Therefore we must, without delay, think about tough international regulations.”

Vatier was attending the UIA's annual conference in Philadelphia over the weekend, where delegates were considering proposals for the adoption of a resolution on privacy.

French lawyer Louis Buchman, managing partner of Paris firm Caubet Chouchana Meyer and a member of the UIA's executive committee, is one of the leading lights behind the move.

“I believe the law in France has struck the correct balance,” he said. “But many countries have no privacy laws and I believe this is very disturbing in the global village where it is impossible to stem the flow of information across the world.

“Where you draw the line between privacy and the freedom of the individual is a very difficult matter and we were all struck by the recent tragic events and believe this deserves an answer.”

But IBA media law committee member Mark Stephens, of West End firm Stephens Innocent, said global privacy laws would be an “outrage”.

He said: “There is absolutely no need for a global privacy law. Existing laws are perfectly sufficient. What we need is a clear distinction between harassment and privacy. Such a law would shackle the press to an unacceptable degree.”

Stephens added that Europe-wide privacy laws were already being introduced “through the back door” as a result of the European Parliament data protection legislation which must be implemented by October 1998.

“Journalists are in for a very nasty shock,” he said.

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