a)  Hungary / b)  Constitutional Court / c) / d)  20-10-2016 / e)  17/2016 / f)  On revealing faces of police officers engaged in official business / g)  Magyar Közlöny (Official Gazette), 2016/159 / 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 private life - Protection of personal data.
Keywords of the alphabetical index:
Identity, disclosure / Identity, revealed / Police officer, photograph, use without consent / Police, power, exercise.
The faces of police officers while on active duty need not be covered in the newspapers, news sites, and in the media in general, as their role as agents of public power outweighs their right to privacy.
I. The matter was brought before the Constitutional Court by the Hungarian news site, The original case dates back to 2011, when published a report of a demonstration organised by police unions. The online publication faced a civil lawsuit and the Metropolitan court ruled that had to pay compensation for showing the faces of police officers in photos taken at that protest.
In Decision no. 28/2014 the Constitutional Court ruled that was well within its right to document these events and to share the identities of police officers. The Constitutional Court held that news organisations could publish unaltered photographs showing the faces of police officers without gaining prior consent. Previously, Hungarian journalists regularly masked the faces of the police, or manipulated the image so that the officers could not be identified. In Decision no. 28/2014 the Court ruled, however, that if the photograph was taken in a public place, showed the subject in an unbiased manner, and there was clear public interest involved in distributing the picture, then it could be published without the consent of the officer. The reason for that was that keeping people with public power accountable takes priority over any privacy considerations.
Despite the fact that the Constitutional Court ruled against the Hungarian courts’ decisions and annulled the judgments against the media, the Supreme Court of Hungary (Kúria) issued an unfavourable decision against the media in 2015. The Supreme Court considered the personal privacy of police officers to hold greater importance than their being published in the public interest argued that nothing trumps personal privacy rights. According to the Supreme Court’s judgment, therefore, Hungarian media must not only cover the faces of bystanders or residents in public places, when they appear in photographs, but also those of police officers engaged in official business. This is also why Hungarian publications are not able to show the faces or reveal the identities of those who have been charged with a crime, but not yet convicted.
II. The media outlets (including turned to the Constitutional Court, arguing that the ordinary courts’ decisions were a violation of constitutional rights, specifically the violation of the freedom of the press.
In its decision concerning the application, the Constitutional Court adhered to the standards defined in Decision no. 28/2014: photos and videos including police officers’ face while on duty can be published without their consent if the disclosure is based on public interest. The Constitutional Court defined as an exception the violation of human dignity, for instance, the publishing of a police officer’s suffering. Based on this standard the Constitutional Court found that the Hungarian courts had violated the freedom of the press.
- no. 28/2014, 29.09.2014, Bulletin 2014/3 [HUN-2014-3-008].