France6 January 2006
Concern about privacy laws after Prince Albert wins ruling against Paris Match
Reporters Without Borders voiced concern today about a Versailles appeal court’s ruling that the magazine Paris Match and its publishers, Hachette Filipacchi Associés, violated Prince Albert of Monaco’s private life and pictorial rights by printing a cover story last May about the son he fathered out of wedlock with former Air France flight attendant Nicole Coste.
At the court’s behest, Paris Match yesterday published an announcement on its cover page referring to the 24 November ruling under which it was ordered to pay 50,000 euros in damages to Prince Albert.
“We are of course in favour of respecting privacy, including the privacy of public figures, but we believe that if a head of state has a secret child, this does not belong to the private domain, especially if it concerns the royal family of a country governed by the principle of succession. This belonged to the public domain and Paris Match just did its duty to report the news.” Reporters Without Borders said.
“Even if the amount of damages was not exorbitant, the sentence could set a dangerous precedent for freedom of expression in France,” the organisation continued. “We are also worried by the prosecutor’s suggestion during the hearing that an exemplary ruling was need to protect public figures. Public figures should not get special treatment. We think it is time for a thorough debate on this issue in France in which journalists, lawyers, judges and politicians all take part.”
Reporters Without Borders added: “We hope Paris Match will take this case to the European Court of Human Rights. French law is one of the most restrictive in this area. The German courts ruled against Prince Albert in the case he brought against a German newspaper for running a similar story to Paris Match’s. And the ties between two people are not usually seen as restricted to the private domain in Britain. An international court should rule on this issue.”
The cover story which Paris Match ran on 5 May was headlined: “Albert of Monaco: Alexandre. The secret child.” It had photos of Coste with her son, and in the text, Coste named Prince Albert as the father.