Protecting Privacy: The Clifford Chance Lectures - Vol. 4

By Basil S. Markesinis | Go to book overview
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of violating someone's right to privacy. But if it violates anyone's rights in the ECHR, for example a journalist's freedom of expression, it is right that it should be answerable for that. Sometimes the PCC will have a positive obligation under Article 8 of the ECHR to protect people's privacy from newspapers. But this is what it is designed to do in any event. If it does its job effectively, it will have nothing to fear from the courts.

It is also important to bear in mind that, in those cases that do come before the courts, whether on judicial review from the PCC or directly, they are themselves public authorities under the Bill. They must comply with the ECHR--and this means all of the ECHR, not just one part of it. They will have to balance the right to privacy against the right to freedom of expression in Article 10 of the Convention. They will also have to bear in mind the case-law from Strasbourg. The Court of Human Rights has often stressed that freedom of the Press is essential to a democratic society, in particular when the Press are investigating the working of government or other matters in the public interest. The Court has also frowned upon the use of prior restraints (i.e. injunctions or gagging orders) which prevent news from being published, because it recognises that news is often a perishable commodity. Legitimate and fearless reporting therefore has nothing to fear from the ECHR. Far from it--incorporation of the ECHR will give to journalists and newspapers the guaranteed right to freedom of expression for the first time in our history. The British Press has secured many important victories in Strasbourg--the Thalidomide case brought by the Sunday Times in the 197OS and the Spycatcher cases brought in the late 1980s by various newspapers including the Observer and the Guardian are among the most memorable.60 It has helped to achieve the high level of protection afforded to freedom of expression in the Strasbourg case-law. Everyone who supports freedom of the Press should welcome the Bill which brings these hard-won rights home.


CONCLUSION

The enactment of the Human Rights Bill will mark 'the beginning of a new constitutional chapter' in the history of the United

____________________
60
N. 52 above.

-189-

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