Max Mosley has failed in his attempt to bring about a tightening of the European privacy laws that would have forced newspapers to forewarn people in the public eye before running stories revealing details about their private lives.
Three years ago, Sunday red-top the News of the World
published a salacious front page exposé
detailing Mosley's sado-masochistic sex sessions with five prostitutes in an underground London apartment – for which the then FIA President was awarded £60,000 in damages by London's High Court, which ruled that there was no justification for such a flagrant and unwarranted invasion of his privacy.
Seeking to take the matter further than that, Mosley appealed to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg in a bid to overhaul the UK's privacy laws, and specifically the element of them that permits publication without the necessity for the subject of the story to be notified in advance – since without prior knowledge, that subject is unable to apply for an injunction.
The Englishman contended that for newspapers not to be legally required to alert their 'victims' in such situations violated the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Britain is a signatory – although he was adamant that stifling media freedom was not his objective.
“If a newspaper is going to write something about your private life, or something you might reasonably wish to keep private, they should tell you beforehand,” he had said back in January. “I think press freedom is absolutely vital, and it has to be protected at all costs. It's the basis of a modern democracy – but that's a very different thing from newspapers concealing from you that they are going to publish something that's illegal.
“In 99 cases out of 100, if they (newspapers) are going to write something about someone of any great interest, they will approach the person. What we are talking about here is cases where they don't come to you, they even perhaps publish a spoof first edition, because they know if they did you would seek an injunction.”
Newspaper chiefs had countered that the implementation of a 'pre-publication notification' in defence of the 'right to private life' would breach their own 'right to freedom of expression', as laid out under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights – and, reports The Guardian
, the European Court of Human Rights agrees.
Whilst lambasting the News of the World
as being 'open to severe criticism' for the gratuitous manner in which it ran the story – by including photographs and video footage obtained via undercover reporting 'merely to titillate the public and increase the embarrassment of the applicant' – the court insisted that Mosley's situation must not be viewed in isolation and stressed 'the need to look beyond the facts of the [News of the World
] case and to consider the broader impact of a pre-notification requirement'.
Concluding that such a move would have a 'chilling effect' on the media and casting 'significant doubt' upon the efficacy of its introduction, the court deemed that 'Article 8 [of the European Convention on Human Rights, safeguarding the 'right to private life'] does not require a legally-binding pre-notification requirement' and that in Mosley's case, 'there has been no violation of Article 8 of the convention by the absence of such a requirement in domestic law'.