How Laws Are Protecting Public Figures from Media Exposure

From celebrities to CEOs –public figures are often at the root of press scandals. Whether they like it or not, celebrities in the public eye are often heavily scrutinized by the press and public. Whilst traditionally tabloids were the main source of this scrutiny, with the rise of social media, public figures are left more exposed than ever before.

Matters such as unpaid tax, business mismanagement, personal mistakes and acts of violation can all attract unwanted attention. For example, Cambridge Analytica was the source of a national scandal in 2018after illegally harvesting around 50 million Facebook profiles. As a result of this privacy scandal Mark Zuckerberg also came under intense investigation following the privacy scandal.

The Royal family (including the likes of Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton) have also experienced relentless media antagonization and have had their privacy infringed.

Whilst it can be tricky for celebrities to navigate the media, the good news is that (luckily for many in the public eye), there arelaws to enforce and guarantee the rights of stars and protect their privacy.

To what extent do the current laws protect public figures from media exposure?

The Human Rights Convention guarantees everyone’s right to privacy. Enshrined into UK law following the Human Rights Act coming in 2000, article 8 of the Human Rights Act protects the right for private and family life. The actdeclaresthat “everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.”

Whilst this is relatively straightforward for most citizens, this becomes problematicwhen viewed in light of celebrities. Article 10 of the Human Rights Act protects freedom of expression which essentially means that we can have opinions and share these with others, irrespective of whether they may cause offence to someone on the receiving end.

As both rights are qualified (unfortunately for those in the public eye), a celebrity’s right to privacy can be limited ifit’sin public interest. Whilst this does create somewhat of a grey area in terms of what is deemed to bein the public interest, the court sees this as a delicate balancing act between the rights of the individual and public interest. Only if the material ‘pursues a legitimate aim’ will it not infringe the right to privacy. Simply speaking, the benefits of publication must outweigh the potential harm to the individual.

This was demonstrated following Kate Middleton’s family holiday to France in 2012. Whilst at a private villa, paparazzi were able to take topless pictures of her sunbathing using a long lens camera. In this case, the Duchess of Cambridge was awarded compensation. It was ruled that whilst the public were likely to be interested in that picture, it did not constitute a public interest.

Even the most careful celebrities may potentially end up in hot water occasionally. Whilst UK laws do protect the rights of celebrities and public figures, it never hurts to have a team of experts in the field on standby should you need them. By having the right legal expertise ready to react, it greatly diminishes the risk of long-lasting reputational damage and is much more likely to protect the qualified right to privacy.

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