HUN-2014-3-008
a)  Hungary / b)  Constitutional Court / c) / d)  29-09-2014 / e)  28/2014 / f)  On the ban on publishing photographs showing police officers on duty / g)  Magyar Közlöny (Official Gazette), 2014/133 / h) .
 
Keywords of the systematic thesaurus:
 
 
Fundamental Rights - Civil and political rights - Freedom of expression.
Fundamental Rights - Civil and political rights - Freedom of the written press.
Fundamental Rights - Civil and political rights - Right to respect for one's honour and reputation.
 
Keywords of the alphabetical index:
 
Photo, publication, police, work / Reputation, police officer.
 
Headnotes:
 
The publication of photographs of police at work in the press without the pixelation of the policemen’s faces is in line with the Fundamental Law.
 
Summary:
 
I. In recent years, the police have won several court cases against media outlets on claims that their right to privacy had been harmed. This practice of blanking out faces on photographs showing police in action unless consent was given beforehand was confirmed by a Supreme Court (Curia) decision in 2012.
 
The online news portal Index.hu submitted a constitutional complaint against a court decision that found Index.hu at fault for showing the police at a political demonstration of the police officers’ trade union without pixelating their faces. The petitioner argued that the police are representatives of public authority and they do not have the right to claim personal protection rights against the media reporting on their actions. «Police at work represent the face of
 
public authority. If the police are faceless, responsibility for that public authority will be lost» the petitioner argued.
 
II. The Constitutional Court, in its decision, emphasised that according to the Civil Code the main rule of publishing photographs is that permission is required from the affected person before publication. However, there are exceptions to this rule. For instance photographs taken in public places – if the photo depicts the subject in an objective and not harmful manner n can be published without the permission of the concerned person, when it is a part of a report that keeps track of public interest. Such exceptions shall be interpreted in accordance with the exercise of the freedom of the press in each case.
 
Accordingly, the photographs showing police actions shall be published without the permission of the concerned police officers if the publication is not self-serving, is about contemporary events or news based on the circumstances of the case, or delivers information on the exercise of the executive power that is of public interest. Deployment of the police in any demonstration is considered to be an event of public interest. Thus, the images about this event shall be published without any permission, unless it violates the human dignity of the police officer (for instance, showing the suffering of an injured police officer).
 
The Constitutional Court held that the Budapest-Capital Regional Court of Appeal, when it interpreted the relevant Civil Code provisions, did not take into account the just mentioned constitutional standards – connected to the freedom of press and freedom of information. Thereby the Constitutional Court annulled the concerned judgment as it violated the freedom of the press as ensured by Article IX.2 of the Fundamental Law.
 
III. Judges István Balsai, Egon Dienes-Oehm and Béla Pokol attached dissenting opinions to the decision.
 
Languages:
 
Hungarian.