Access to Public Information, Content Regulation / Censorship, Press Freedom, Privacy, Data Protection and Retention, Surveillance
Sarney v. O Estado de São Paulo
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The Supreme Court of Argentina held that the freedom of the press to report information about a child and its father in the context of paternity proceedings may be restricted to protect the child’s right to privacy. The Court held that where the essential rights of freedom of the press and individual privacy collide, a court must engage in a factual inquiry to determine the stronger interest; when such privacy interest involves a minor’s personal family situation, the dissemination of the information may be prohibited.
This case analysis was contributed by Right2Info.org
An Argentine lower court had affirmed the prohibition on the press from reporting certain information about a reputed father and child who were the subjects of paternity proceedings. The press argued that this prohibition violated the constitutional protection against censorship of the press, and also hampered reporting on acts of the judiciary.
The Court had to resolve the direct conflict between two values enjoying equal guarantee and protection under the Agentienan Constitution: (1) privacy (particularly of a child), and (2) freedom of the press and expression, and the public’s right to know.
Upholding the lower court decision and ruling that the child’s privacy rights outweighed the public’s right to know her personal family information, the court noted that the conflict between these two rights must be weighed on a case-by-case basis. For example, the lower court noted that the penal law prohibits the publishing of certain information related to the crimes and violations of law by minors, noting that the reasons for confidentiality are even stronger where the case concerns the individual family status of a minor.
The Court rejected the press’s arguments that the prohibition against censorship was an absolute guarantee, and remarked that the general objections of the press based on “freedom of expression” did not specifically refute the issues discussed by the lower court.
The Court also noted that just because someone becomes the matter of a judicial dispute (here, the reputed father), that does not mean that that act constitutes a decision to submit this private matter to public consideration where there are other individuals involved. That is, this prohibition impinging on the freedom of the press was connected with the rights of the minor child, not the presumed father. Further, banning the dissemination of the information in question did not prohibit the spread of thoughts or ideas, nor did it silence a topic related to the public good. Rather, it was the decision of a court not to allow the publishing of personal information connected with the identity of a minor.
The Court noted that the freedom of the press, without censorship, is a transcendent right, but that it cannot be used to violate other essential rights.
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