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Corte Suprema de Justicia de la Nación, S.622.XXXIII “S.,V. c/ M., D.A. s/medidas precautorias

Case number:
S.622.XXXIII “S.,V. c/ M., D.A. s/medidas precautorias
Country:
Argentina
Date of decision:
30 November 1998
Court / Arbiter:
Supreme Court of Justice ( Supreme )


Decision:

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.


Keywords:
Constitution
Court papers (including case files, court orders)
Freedom of expression (including RTI as element of or integral to)
Judiciary or quasi-judicial body
Other law (non-RTI)
Privacy (harm to private interests, including life, health, safety)
Public interest (including public interest override, information of public interest)

Case details:

Facts

An Argentine lower court had affirmed the prohibition on the press from revealing certain information about a reputed father and minor child who were the subjects of a proceeding to establish paternity (pg. 1). In response, the press argued that the prohibition violated the constitutional guarantee against censorship of the press, and also hampered the publicity of acts of the judiciary (pg. 1). The Court found it necessary to resolve the direct conflict between two values enjoying equal guarantee and protection: (1) privacy (particularly of a child), and (2) freedom of the press/expression and the public's right to know (pg. 2-3).

Decision

In upholding the lower court 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 (pg. 4, 22). 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 (pg. 2-3). 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 (pg. 6, 9, 14).

The Court also noted that just because someone becomes the matter of a judicial dispute (here, the reputed father), does not mean that that act constitutes a decision to submit this private matter to public consideration where there are other individuals involved (pg. 11). That is, this prohibition impinging on the freedom of the press was connected with the rights of the minor child, not the presumed father (pg. 14). 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 (pg. 18).

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 (pg. 22).

Resources:

Judgment of the Court.