Yesterday the Constitutional Court announced a decision in two cases. The ordinary courts ruled against certain electronic media outlets, claiming that they couldn’t have published photos and videos of police officers on duty without their consent. The media outlets turned to the Constitutional Court, arguing that the courts’ decisions were a violation of constitutional rights, specifically the violation of the freedom of the press.
1. The issue of covering police officers’ face while on duty has been on the agenda for several years. The Constitutional Court made a decision (no. 28/2014) based on a complaint submitted by Eötvös Károly Policy Institute (EKINT). Despite the fact that the Constitutional Court ruled against the Hungarian courts’ decisions and annulled the judgements against the media in autumn 2015, the Supreme Court of Hungary (Kúria) made unfavourable decisions against the media in spring 2016 again. In these latter cases the Constitutional Court has not decided yet.
2. In the present two decisions, 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 violated the freedom of the press. Nevertheless, it is sill an open question whether the Constitutional Court will compel the courts to implement this decision.
Budapest, 19 October 2016
László Majtényi’s essay in Élet és Irodalom on 2 Februar 2018.