How do we balance privacy with freedom?

How do we balance privacy with freedom?

Having eyed each other with their traditional distrust in the growing conflict between freedom of speech and personal privacy, the media and the law are on the verge of a struggle which could end in the collapse of selfregulation. Since 2000, the Human Rights Act (HRA) has given British people what most of the European Union’s citizens already had: a legal right to free speech. It also handed them a legal right to privacy. Rather than attempt to reconcile the two competing Articles at source, the framers of the legislation are allowing them to fight it out and have appointed the courts to referee. Article 8, the Right to Respect for Private and Family Life, states: “Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.” Article 10, the Right to Freedom of Expression, states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.” Judges have the task, when hearing cases in which the two Articles come into conflict, of “balancing” them. As the two concepts are weighed in the scales of justice, the media is particularly vulnerable. There has never been anything so fundamental or forceful in English or Scottish law to protect press freedom as the United States has in the First Amendment’s stout declaration that no law can be made “abridging the freedom of speech or of the press”. Lacking this guarantee, the British media itself has often been reluctant to take on the powerful, though it is hardly alone in that.

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