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Helsinki Foundation reminds of professional media standards

The HFHR issued a statement to express its concern about recent publications of the Wprost weekly magazine. The statement emphasises how significant it is for journalists to comply with the professional standards that govern the collection and dissemination of information.

It presents, in particular, the guidelines developed by the European Court of Human Rights on the limits of media intrusion in the family life of public figures.

“Public persons are not completely deprived of the right to privacy, and the “thick skin rule” does not mean a blank consent to the publication of any facts from their private life, even if such facts are true. Plus, the acceptable level of interference in the public life of such public figures as journalists, lawyers, professional athletes or artists is appropriately lower than that permissible in the case of people holding public offices”, the statement noted.

According to the Foundation, if a media piece touches upon one of the most sensitive areas of the private life of a well-known person who is not, however, a public servant, journalists must be required to present a robust justification of any interference of this kind; they need to prove a relatively close relationship between the person’s public functions and maintain an appropriately balanced form of the publication.

“A sensational publication, which does not refer to any matter of public interest and is based on deeply intrusive methods of gathering information, is not afforded any legal protection”, reads the HFHR statement.

The Foundation also emphasised that the publications that violate professional standards are detrimental to freedom of speech. “Moreover, such media reports divert the public attention from important social issues that tend to be discussed in the publications, such as mobbing and sexual harassment at work. In consequence, important and broader matters of public importance are obscured by cheap, tabloid-style excitement”, argued the HFHR.

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