Decision 16/2017 on revealing faces of police officers engaged in official business
20 October 2016
Decision number: Decision 16/2016 (X. 20.)
Subject of the case:
The faces of police officers while on active duty need not be covered in the newspapers, news sites, and in the media in general, as their role as agents of public power outweighs their right to privacy.
In the underlying court case, a press organ published on its website a recording of a police officer who had secured an act of execution by the court, without asking for the consent of the affected person or making the person unrecognizable by masking or by other means. According to the affected police officer, the disclosing of the recording caused him non-material damages and, therefore, requested compensation. The court of first instance held that the proceeding police officer was not a public figure, therefore, it found that the recording of his image without his consent and its disclosure had been unlawful. In the judgement No. 56.Pf.632.194/2015/3, the Budapest-Capital Regional Court approved the judgement of the court of first instance. In the constitutional complaint, the petitioner held that the court decisions violate the freedom of expression and the freedom of the press, and the petitioner also referred to the Decision No. 28/2014. (IX. 29.) AB of the Constitutional Court adopted earlier in the same subject matter. The Constitutional Court found that the challenged court decision violated the freedom of the press. The Constitutional Court made a reference to its earlier decision where it had stated that as long as a communication is not a misuse of exercising the freedom of the press, a reference to the violation of personality rights rarely justifies the restriction of exercising the freedom of the press. A recorded image of person who is in the spotlight of the public may, in general, be disclosed without his or her consent, provided that it does not qualify as a misuse of exercising the freedom of the press (such as arbitrary publication) and with the exception of the cases when the protection of human dignity is more important (for example, the image showing the suffering of a wounded police officer among the recordings of an event, which is otherwise of public interest). Therefore, the Constitutional Court annulled the challenged court decision. Justices dr. Egon Dienes-Oehm and dr. Béla Pokol attached dissenting opinions to the decision.