a)  Hungary / b)  Constitutional Court / c)  Plenary / d)  05-07-2018 / e)  8/2018 (VII. 5.) AB / f)  On annulling Judgment Pfv.IV.20.773/2016/5 of the Kúria / g)  Magyar Közlöny (Official Gazette), 2018/106 / h) .
Keywords of the systematic thesaurus:
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.
Fundamental Rights - Civil and political rights - Right to private life.
Keywords of the alphabetical index:
Press article, title / Public figure, personality rights.
Stronger consideration should be given to the protection of personality rights in the case of the title to a press article than in other parts of it.
I. In line with Article 24.2.d of the Constitution and Section 27 of Act no. CLI of 2011 on the Constitutional Court (Act on the Constitutional Court), the applicants lodged a constitutional complaint seeking to annul Judgment Pfv.IV.20.773/2016/5 of the Kúria.
The defendant in the case underlying the constitutional complaint was the publisher of a national daily newspaper and an article had appeared in this publication, entitled «Investigation is under way against bishop», concretely identified by name. The bishop mentioned in the title had been the plaintiff at first instance. He later became one of the applicants in this matter.
Further in the article, the newspaper reported that the prosecutor's office had ordered an investigation due to the suspicion of the criminal offence of coercion, «related to the acts of the diocesan and the commissary». Another part of the article, entitled «Politician Priest» reported on the bishop's alleged political activities, his role in the local football community and budget funding he had received for church renovation through his political connections.
The applicants argued in first instance proceedings that the newspaper was not correct in stating that an investigation had been launched against them due to any criminal offence; they had not been incriminated and an investigation took place against an unknown perpetrator. The court of first instance rejected the claim, stating that the title of the article may have been misleading but the main body of the article clarified that the applicants had not yet been suspected and that an investigation was under way against persons unknown. The additional part of the article, entitled «Politician Priest», should be viewed as an opinion that did not contain offensive statements.
Following the applicants' appeal, the court of second instance overturned the previous judgment in the applicants' favour and held the publisher liable, on the basis that the statements in the article had violated the applicants' right to good reputation. The Kúria, upon the motion of the publisher, overruled the second instance judgment and upheld the first instance judgment, on the basis that the press output should be examined as a whole. Despite the fact that the title of the article may have contained false information, the article as a whole reported that the applicants had not yet been incriminated. Regarding the additional part of the article, «Politician Priest», the Kúria was of the view that the bishop, as a public figure, would have to endure more encroachment on his personal rights.
The applicants lodged a constitutional complaint against the judgment of the Kúria, stating that it violated their right to human dignity (Article II of the Constitution), right to good reputation (Article VI.2 of the Constitution), the separation of the church and the state (Article VII.3 of the Constitution, the scope of the freedom of the press (Article IX.4 of the Constitution) and the presumption of innocence (Article XXVIII.2 of the Constitution). They argued that holding office within a church did not make the person concerned a public figure. They also contested the Kúria's opinion which made it permissible for the title of a press article to contain a falsehood.
II. The Constitutional Court began by observing that a person's status as a public figure should not be the only factor to take into account when his or her obligation to endure negative opinions in public debate is at stake. In this particular case, one of the applicants, an official in the church, had been participating in politically motivated activities and had been making political statements. He had opted of his own volition to contribute to public issues.
As a person's status as a public figure determines how the right to privacy may be limited in favour of the press, church members or officials who do take part in public matters aside from church business will have to endure harsher criticism. In this respect, the Kúria's judgment and interpretation was in line with the Constitution.
Regarding the title of the article, the Constitutional Court stated that where a press article provides accurate information, smaller inaccuracies and falsehoods found in certain sentences or phrases within the article do not form grounds for legal accountability. However, different criteria apply to the title of an article; the title of an article is viewed differently from the main body where personality rights are involved. As a result, the conclusion the Kúria had reached, to the effect that the falsehood contained in the title of the article should be assessed in the light of the full body of the article, was unconstitutional. The Constitutional Court annulled the judgment of the Kúria on the basis of violation of the right to privacy enshrined in Article VI of the Constitution.
III. Justices Attila Horváth, Béla Pokol, Mária Szívós and András Zs. Varga attached a concurring reasoning to the Decision.