In 2000, during a presidential election campaign, the applicants published a short article, entitled “The ex-husband of [R] and the person in charge of communications for the Aho campaign have found each other”. The article stated that P, who had separated from his wife, had found a new partner, O. P’s wife R was known as a political reporter in election-related TV debates. The article mentioned that O was in charge of communications for the Aho campaign and that, in her civilian life, she was the communications manager in a specified pension insurance company, and a mother. The article went on to state that, before joining the campaign, she had been active in the same political party as P. Pictures of O and R were published alongside the article.
The applicants were convicted for having violated O’s private life and ordered to pay a fine, damages and costs.The court found that despite O’s position in the presidential campaign, she was not a public figure and her relationship with P was not such that the applicants could write about it without her consent. The information published, however accurate, was not necessary for examining any matter of interest to society.
The applicants appealed to the Turku Court of Appeal contending that, due to her position in the presidential campaign and as a local politician, she was a public figure, that the facts in the article were true and that the issue was important for public discussion since one of the main focuses of the presidential campaign was family values. P was a married father of four children, in contrast to the other candidate, who was a single mother cohabiting without being married. O’s extra-marital affair was therefore of importance to the public. The affair had been public so that information about it could not be private; it was connected to O’s public function; and was publication of the information necessary in order to discuss an important matter for society.
The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal, and was upheld by a majority of the Supreme Court, who held that the article focused on a personal love affair or intimate relationship rather than anything of political importance. O’s public function as an assistant to a political candidate in respect of communications did not justify disclosing information about her private life. P’s position did not justify publishing information about the private lives of others. The fact that their relationship was open and visible to outsiders did not mean that it was public or that information about it could be freely distributed in the media. One Justice gave a dissenting opinion, stating that O’s political activities and the importance of family values in the campaign meant that the information was conducive to the public good and its publication should not be penalised.
The applicants complained that their right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 10 had been violated.