On 27 March 2014 French magazine Closer was ordered by the Tribunal de Grande Instance de Nanterre to pay 15,000 euros in damages for breach of privacy to French actress Julie Gayet. On 10 January 2014 Closer had published an article with the title “François Hollande and Julie Gayet, the secret love of the president”, which we addressed in an earlier post. The article was accompanied by several photos including one of Gayet entering her apartment.
Gayet argued that the article was an interference with her right to private life as it described her private emotions and was published with the sole purpose of satisfying the curiosity of a certain public without in any way contributing to a debate of general interest.
Furthermore, Gayet underlined that she had never herself confirmed the allegations made by the magazine. On the contrary, she had consistently denied any such rumors. She additionally mentioned that the magazine had earned an enormous amount of money on the exploitation of her private life while she, after the publication, was constantly hunted by journalists and accordingly had to limit her movements.
The French publisher defended itself by arguing that Julie Gayet is a known public person and that the private life of the president is of interest to the public as his private affairs might influence his public duties. It is, according to the publisher, relevant to the public that the article in relation to the alleged affair questions the security of the President and also questions the possible influence that Gayet might have on the President’s decisions.
The French court firstly stated that in a case like the present a balance must be made between the right newspapers right to freedom of expression, the public’s right to be informed about matters of general interest and the right of Julie Gayet to private life. Those are the rights protected in Article 10 and Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The court emphasised that there must be a link between the content of the article and the public life of the person involved. In the present case there was no such link between Gayet’s public life as an actress and her private love life. Furthermore, she had not voluntarily provided the information to the public. It could reasonably be argued that the public has an interest in knowing about the private life of the President of the country. However, such information should be provided in a serious context relating the matter to the political life of the president and not, as in the present case, merely be exposing unfounded allegations. Furthermore, the fact that the publication was a seven pages long cover story digging into the possible personal feelings of Gayet using images taken without her knowledge and consent proved that the purpose of the article was not to inform about political matters but merely to satisfy public curiosity.
In its decision to award Juliet Gayet 15,000 euros in damages the Court took a number of facts into account. This included how widely the magazine had been circulated (470,000 copies), the intrusive nature of the article, the way the images were obtained, the information which Gayet had previously given to the press concerning her private life, her later efforts to keep her private life out of the press and lastly the consequences of the publication such as the difficulties for Gayet to move about in public without being constantly followed by journalists.