The problem of the right to privacy and the right to freedom of expression is incredibly crucial nowadays. On the one hand, every individual has a right to have a private life. On the other hand, everyone has a right to receive and impact the information especially if this information is in public interest. This essay focuses on the problems raised from the vague line, which shows where the right to privacy ends and the right to freedom of expression gains momentum. It gives a characteristic to tree cases, which reveal this problem the best and will give the opportunity to make valid conclusions.

Right to privacy and to confidence

Nowadays the society is considered as a community of communities. Harmonious and complicated structure, its members pursue their interests and provide social solidarity. As a result, privacy forbids undue interfering into any of its groups: families, lovers, school units, political parties etc. without privacy it will be hard to form the relationships, especially in family, which is based on intimate relationships. Moreover, the core of privacy is suggested as facilitating intimate relationships and there is no need to limit it.

On the other hand, it should be taken into account that the interests of other groups and individuals and of society. It can be argued that the privacy of one person ends where the privacy of other person begins. Only this way there will be no inequality or abuse.

The extent of public and private life as the balance between its members can’t be dictated. Each society makes the decision on this matter itself according to political principles. (Feldmam 2002)

There are a variety of definition of privacy, which , take into consideration the context and special features of environment. In some countries the concept of privacy is fused with data protection as every person has a right to protect personal information. On the other hand, the privacy gives an opportunity to draw the line, which shows how far society can intrude into person’s affairs. Some lawyers consider privacy as the right to be left alone, to have private physical space, which nobody can intrude to (Privacy and Human Rights 2004).

Until 2000, the private life and information could be protected if it had been expressed as a breach to confidence, defamation, contempt of court, malicious falsehood, nuisance and trespass. Two Bills, which introduced a law of privacy, were under consideration in 1961 and 1969, but none of them  went beyond a second reading. Only in 1998 Parliament passed the Human Rights Act. It came into force in 2000 and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) was incorporated into UK law.

According to this document, the public authorities are to act in accordance with provisions of ECHR, which guarantees a right to privacy, a family life and a right to freedom of expression. None of these rights has priority over another, so the courts are obliged to keep up the balance between them.

In addition, if the privacy is invaded, such action relies on the “breach of confidence”. The right to confidence is a recognized right. As for the law practice, it was established that any obtaining or publishing unauthorized information is considered as a breach of confidence when a “duty of confidence” exists. The obligation not to distribute the information can be also defined in a written or oral contract or agreement.

The law of breach of confidence is used to protect private information in different situations. The only exception is when there are circumstances due to which the notification of the police is permitted. For example, lawyers must not disclose the information, which their clients gave them; doctors are to preserve the confidence of their patients (Privacy and breach of confidence).

The right to freedom of expression

The provision of article 10 of European Human Rights Act is considered to be crucial for media as it touches the interests of, journalists, for example. The prevention to report the stories about celebrities’ private life, so-called “super-injunction”, provoked the indignation of representatives of media as these stories were the main sources of their profit. In addition to this, the government searches for the way to regulate the propagation of such kind of news and information on the internet.

Although this article guarantee the right to “receive and impact the information”, there are many exceptions (national security and other interests of the state or public safety, protection of reputation, rights of others, health and moral etc). These measures can’t harm the interests of individuals and interfere into person’s freedom of expression as it is prescribed by law. So, no order can infringe the freedom of speech unless there are some compelling reasons, which are to be furnished.

The provision of Article 16 of European Convention on Human Rights is also useful. According to it, nothing in Article 10 shall be regarded as prevention for the High Parties from imposing on the political activities of aliens. These restrictions allow the government to interfere as an exception to the rights and freedoms attached in Articles 10, 11 and 14 (Article 10. The freedom of expression 2011)

Interrelation and Balance between

the Right to Privacy and the Right to Freedom of Expression.

Judgments on this Issue

The interrelation between the right to privacy and the right to freedom of speech can be found in the section 12 of the Human Rights Act. According to provisions of this section, very person has a right to be granted a relief even in restraining the publication. This section was included into the Human Rights Act not to let the right to privacy have any supremacy over the freedom of expression.

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Nevertheless, the Government should clarify what protection individuals can expect from unauthorized intrusion to their private lives made not only by press but also by anyone. Moreover, it is surprising that the legislation doesn’t provide the obligation to notify the person about the disclosure of her personal information. It is likely that if compulsory pre-notification is a part of legislation it will prevent the complication of proceeding in the future. Logically, if such information is a need for a public interest, the publication of such information will become an exception.

Now it’s time to move on to the court practice and let’s start with the Mr. Peck’s case. He attempt suicide in August 1995, having been filmed walking along the street with a kitchen knife in his hand previously. The police were notified about it and upon arrival gave Mr. Peck a medical assistance and too disarmed Peck to police station. Later he was released without charge. The council considered this case as a power and effectiveness of media and this footage was broadcast in news. But Mr. Peck’s face was shown without mask and his friends and members of his family recognized him. Mr. Peck complained that this was an unwarranted infringement of his privacy and his complaints were upheld. The European Court of Human Rights later noted that the disproportionate interference with applicant’s life.

It should be emphasized that although Mr. Peck was filmed on the street (public place), but his actions can be considered as a private situation. The judges took into account the fact that the applicant was not there for a public event and he was not a public figure.

As a result, it can be stated that, on the one hand, the media saved life of the applicant using the right to freedom of expression. On the other hand, invasion of privacy inflicted damage to the applicant’s private life. This incident wouldn’t come up if the Mr. Peck’s consent prior to disclosure was obtained and his face was masked. In such case, both parties would have been satisfied (Bhogal & Russell 2004).

The next case is well-known – Douglas v Hello!. Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones decided to keep their marriage ceremony in secret and made extensive security arrangements as they were bound under contract – the magazine OK! had exclusive photographic rights. Unfortunately, one photographer managed to take pictures surreptitiously and then sold them to Hello!.

According to the comprehensive judgment, the ceremony was considered as private so the pictures were confidential. Making this decision, the judges assumed the fact of exceptional nature of the wedding and adopted measures, which were elaborate and expensive. The ruling made a lot of important notes. For instance, despite the fact that the bride and groom were public persons and even if they previously invited the press, they still have a right of confidentiality of their wedding. It doesn’t mean that if they sold the exclusive right to OK! It reduced or affected the level of protection.

Therefore, it doesn’t matter whether a person is famous and public person or just a simple individual.Everyone has a right to protect personal life and information about it. Moreover, the press and others are to respect and not to disclose the information about personal life. Otherwise, such actions will be considered as a violation of the right to privacy. (Bhogal & Russell 2004)

The last case to be reviewed is a Campbell v MGN Ltd. In February 2001, the Mirror newspaper published an article about Naomi Campbell with the photos of her living a Narcotics Anonymous group. Previously, the supermodel claimed that she is drug-free. Her lawyers were not against this article as she lied about her addiction. However, the details of her treatment allowed everyone to identify the place of her treatment. The court ruled that the Mirror breached Campbell’s right to privacy having published the details of her treatment. Moreover, the privacy is one of the factors, which helps to encourage addicted to therapy (New Law Journal 2004).

As for the balance between the right to privacy and the right to freedom of expression, it can be noted in all reviewed cases. It can be confirmed that sometimes it is hard to draw a line were the privacy ends. The location of this line depends on harm, which the disclosure of information can make to each individual and what benefits each of us will have from this information. However, as a matter of litigation, the privacy can be breached if the private or confidential information is in the public interest. So a judge is to strike a balance between claimant’s rights and the public interest served by publication.


The right to privacy and the right to freedom of speech are the basic rights given to every person. These rights are protected by each law. As practice shows, for the future it will be useful to classify the protection expected by the individuals. It is also necessary to satisfy the obligations upon the United Kingdom under the ECHR (European Convention of Human Rights). Unfortunately, the Government let the Government intervene into cases if the courts strikes the wrong balance, but it is considered as a rare fact.

In addition, there is a view that the law relating to privacy is going to be clear in some period of time as more and more cases are decided by the courts. But still, there is a need for UK to act forward the ECHR, protecting both right to privacy and right to freedom of expression. To protect it properly, there is a need to make a clear distinction, which will later show what exactly right has been violated. 

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