2011 | 2 (188) | 59-86
Article title

Right to publication of information about the sphere of privacy in Polish law

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One of the interests protected by the law is an individual’s privacy. We should also remember that, most of all, it is an individual himself who always remains a decision-maker while determining the scope of his privacy to be protected, and this is his right within informative autonomy that remains the crucial point of reference for legal evaluations. It does not mean that there are no exceptions to this, nevertheless, the scope of press invasion of this sphere of human life is determined unanimously either by the legislator (as it is in the Polish law – Art. 14 par. 6 of the PL, or in the Lithuanian Civil Code - Art. 2.23 § 3) or by the court jurisdiction. Circumstances of private and family life include such spheres of life with reference to which social interest does not cause the state’s invasion. The sphere of private life is subject to special legal protection. A principle banning dissemination of information from the sphere of privacy in the mass media should be adopted. Invasion of this sphere of life is exceptionally admissible under Art. 14 par. 6 of the PL when a specific behavior of a criticized person, which he/she has been accused of, goes beyond the boundaries of private or family life in its strict sense, and directly influences a public activity. In the case of invasion of the sphere of privacy, the issue whether the allegations are true recedes into the background. The first criterion of the investigation should be the question whether social usefulness of given facts justifies publication of information about an individual’s personal life in the media. The provision of Art. 14 par. 6 of the PL allows publication of information about an individual’s private life only if it is directly connected with his/her activity. It is assumed that some facts from an individual’s life must be capable of contributing to the evaluation of actions he/she is carrying out within his/her public activity. A degree of privacy does not matter here (more or less intimate relations) but the fact whether revealed information from an individual’s life may impact on the way they are conducting their public activity. It should be added that the jurisdiction of the European Court protects private life of, e.g. a politician, too. Family and private life is still subject to protection even though public opinion has the right to learn about such matters but only those which are connected with politicians’ official position or those that influence the evaluation of their credibility . Regulations concerning “exclusion of privacy protection” of public figures are nowadays recognized in many contemporary legal systems either by means of explicit legislative decisions or jurisdiction, and they are commonly treated as a necessary element of control exercised in a democratic state of law over persons performing important functions in the society. For instance Art. 9 of the French Civil Code stipulates that private life is explicitly and specially protected within the right to personality. Lithuanian Civil Code expressly bans publication of information from the sphere of privacy. It is exceptionally admissible with regard to persons holding public offices without their consent only if it is justified by reasonable public interest (Art. 2.23). The prerequisites of invasion of the sphere of privacy are similar in most countries (it results from the jurisdiction, doctrine or legislation). They include: holding a public position/office by individuals, a possibility provided by disseminated information to evaluate their actions in connection with their functions. We cannot draw a clear border between the right to privacy and the right to information. Nevertheless, it should be noticed that individuals performing public functions (or those who have become popular in result of their professional activity, e.g. actors or journalists) have the right to privacy protection too. Persons who are popular, those who hold top offices/positions in a state, or politicians, are doomed to be subject of greater inquisitiveness and criticism of the media, but the scope of such interest should be determined statutorily or shaped by means of court jurisdiction.
Physical description
  • Uniwersytet w Białymstoku, ul. Marii Skłodowskiej-Curie 14, 15-097 Białystok, Poland
Document Type
Publication order reference
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