On 12 June 2014, the Fifth Section of the Court of Human Rights held that judgment of a French Court arising out of a story that Monaco’s reigning monarch, Prince Albert II, had an illegitimate child was a violation of Article 10.
The Chamber decision in the case, Couderc and Hachette Filipacchi Associés v. France, was by a 4:3 majority. The French Government then successfully applied for a reference to the Grand Chamber.
The case started when the child’s mother gave interviews to the media saying that she was living in the prince’s Paris apartment and that she received an allowance from him. French, German and English media published the interviews along with photographs showing the child as well as Prince Albert. He sued for invasion of privacy, although he later acknowledged that the child was indeed his.
The Grand Chamber will hear the case on 15 April 2015. Its ruling is expected to set a new standard for privacy law and the media under European human rights law.
The NGO, the Media Legal Defence Initiative (“MLDI”) has intervened in the case. Its intervention, which has been endorsed by The New York Times, The Guardian, Reuters, NRC Media and Il Fatto Quotidiano, emphasises that the child’s mother willingly spoke to the media and that the child has a right to assert his existence and have his identity recognised. It is submitted that Prince Albert’s privacy interests should not outweigh this, particularly given his status as Monaco’s reigning monarch which adds an important public interest element to the story.
The MLDI’s ten page intervention can be read here [pdf]. It concludes that
“The approach of the Chamber to the issues of principle in the present case was … the right one. An appropriately broad approach was adopted in respect of the concept of a “general debate”. Careful scrutiny was given to the rights and interests not only of the Prince and the applicant, but also the third parties, namely Mdm. C and her child. More generally … a degree of latitude should be afforded to editors in determining the kind of detail and colour which is necessary to include in article for journalistic reasons”.
The MLDI’s intervention was drafted by Conor McCarthy with input from Betto Seraglini, Boekx Advocaten, Prof. Dr. Roger Mann and Prof. Dr. Dirk Voorhoof for their input.