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Secrecy, Privacy and Human Rights in the Fifth Republic

Trouille, Helen ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0383-8920 (1999) Secrecy, Privacy and Human Rights in the Fifth Republic. In: Allison, ME and Heathcote, ON, (eds.) Forty Years of the Fifth French Republic: Actions, dialogues and discourses. Bern, Peter Lang, pp. 223-236

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No one shall be subject to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks. (Article 12, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948)

1 Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
2 There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. (Article 8, European Convention on Human Rights, 1950) .

These two texts, from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (adopted fifty years ago in 1948) and the European Convention on Human Rights (adopted in 1950) respectively, emphasise quite clearly the importance which, during the years preceding the founding of the Fifth Republic, was placed upon privacy, upon the right to lead one's life away from the interference of the State or prying gaze of the general public. When we consider the extravagances of the media today, and particularly the role the press has to play here, I think we could be forgiven for thinking that these principles had become lost in the mists of time. This paper is written scarcely a year after the disappearance of the Princess of Wales, hounded to her death, so many believe, by a posse of over-zealous journalists determined to scoop the definitive photo of Diana and Dodi and to hawk it for a small fortune around the world's major papers. It is not my intention here to delve into the tragedy, to discuss who was or was not responsible for the Princess' death, but rather to explore an issue which has intrigued me for quite some time now, namely, how can it be that a country such as France, which regularly treats us to the most flamboyant spreads in magazines such as Paris Match, complete with full-colour photographs and outrageous revelations about people in high places, how can it be that such a country can pledge itself to be le pays des droits de l'homme and can reputedly have extremely stringent laws relating to privacy and secrecy? And how can this same country commit incredible indiscretions about those 'helping the police with their inquiries', innocent until proven otherwise in law yet apparently proclaimed guilty by the press? In this short paper, I would like to look at legislation relating to privacy and to secrecy in France, particularly in relation to the role played by the press and in relation to the 'interference in the privacy' of well-known public figures, and to the pre-trial indiscretions which apparently are so regularly committed.

Item Type: Book Section
Status: Published
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
K Law > K Law (General)
School/Department: York Business School
URI: https://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/5210

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