April 18, 2024

Ex-Formula One Boss Loses Privacy Case

PARIS — The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday rejected a bid by Max Mosley, former president of the governing body of Formula One auto racing, to require news organizations to notify the subjects of articles prior to publication.

The court, based in Strasbourg, said such a requirement would create a “chilling effect” for freedom of speech.

The case stemmed from a 2008 story in The News of the World, a racy British tabloid, that was headlined “F1 boss has sick Nazi orgy with 5 hookers.” The story described a sex session involving Mr. Mosley, who headed the International Automobile Federation from 1993 until 2009.

Mr. Mosley, a son of Oswald Mosley, former leader of the British Union of Fascists, sued The News of the World, saying there had been no Nazi theme, though he acknowledged the sadomasochistic flavor. A British court called the story a flagrant invasion of his privacy and fined The News of the World £60,000, or nearly $100,000.

In his case before the European court, Mr. Mosley had argued that British media laws violated the European Convention on Human Rights by failing to protect him from intrusions into his private life. He was seeking a requirement that newspapers and other media should have to give the subjects of their stories a chance to respond before the papers appear on the newsstand.

The court rejected Mr. Mosley’s claim, saying there were already sufficient privacy protections in place in Britain.

“Although punitive fines and criminal sanctions could be effective in encouraging pre-notification, that would have a chilling effect on journalism, even political and investigative reporting, both of which attracted a high level of protection under the convention,” the court wrote. “That ran the risk of being incompatible with the convention requirements of freedom of expression.”

The decision comes amid a heated debate in Britain over the balance between privacy rights and Fleet Street’s freedom to publish celebrity tell-alls. Newspapers complain about the growing use of court orders to stifle such reporting, including so-called “superinjunctions,” which bar reporting even the existence of the order.

A lawyer for Mr. Mosley could not immediately be reached.

Dominic Crossley, a partner at Collyer Bristow who represents Mr. Mosley, had argued that in publishing stories like the one on Mr. Mosley, British tabloids crossed the line separating freedom from recklessness.

“The first Max knew about the News of the World story was on the morning of 30 March 2008, the same time as 15 percent of the adult population of the U.K. were also reading it,” Mr. Crossley told the Guardian in January. “The decision not to notify the subjects of stories like this is a technique used by tabloid editors in extreme cases when the article is clearly going to be unlawful — they take a decision which renders privacy rights entirely futile.”

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=9ae2029c381619d7e5100447895ad4e3

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