Decision 23/2019 on disclosing the image of a person exercising public authority
18 July 2019
Decision number: Decision 23/2019 (VII. 18)
Subject of the case:
Constitutional complaint against the judgement No. 2.Pf.20.009/2018/4/II of the Budapest-Capital Regional Court of Appeal (violation of personality right)
Summary of the decision: In a constitutional complaint procedure, the Constitutional Court annulled the judgement of the Budapest-Capital Regional Court of Appeal delivered in the subject matter of the violation of the right to image. The television channel that submitted the constitutional complaint had aired a report in the news about a trial at the Curia, and in the broadcast the face of the accused person had been masked, but the face of the staff member of the penal institution accompanying the accused person had been visible. The employee of the penal institution had filed a claim against the TV channel and as a result the proceeding courts condemned the channel for the violation of personality rights, as the concerned employee of the penal institution had not agreed to the disclosure of his image. The petitioner then submitted a constitutional complaint with reference to the violation of the freedom of expression and the freedom of the press. According to the petitioner, the concerned video recording provided information about the events of the present time and it was a report about an event challenging the public interest in terms of exercising public authority, therefore no consent by the affected person was necessary for making the recording and airing it. The Constitutional Court held that the relevant constitutional question in the case was whether the image of a person exercising public authority at a court trial could be disclosed freely with reference to the freedom of the press, i.e. whether a media content showing an identifiable a person attending a court trial and exercising public authority there could be made accessible. As interpreted by the Constitutional Court, if a person exercising public authority becomes identifiable in this quality in a certain media content, the protection of the image, in itself, shall not justify the restriction of the freedom of the press. The “protection of the image” may only restrict the freedom of the press, if the disclosure of the image causes the injury of a fundamental right or of another constitutional value. Therefore, as a general rule, the persons exercising public authority should tolerate the disclosure of their image during their official activities. The order of the trial and the independence of the judicial system are constitutional values that, in general, justify the restriction of the freedom of the press, however, it does not mean that the activity of the press could be totally restricted at a court trial. Nevertheless, if the persons directly affected by the lawsuit do not raise an objection against reporting by the media, then other persons may not challenge the exercising of the freedom of the press by referring to the order of justice. As the courts that had proceeded in the case had delivered judgements contrary to these constitutional limitations, the Constitutional Court annulled the challenged judgements.