The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Paulina Rubio’s right to “respect for private and family life” were violated in Spain when comments about the Latin music star’s sex life and her relationship with her former boyfriend were made on gossip shows aired on two private Spanish television networks.
“The Court found that Ms. Rubio’s fame as a singer did not mean that her activities or conduct in her private life should be regarded as necessarily falling within the public interest,” the court ruled Tuesday (Feb. 21), reaching a decision on a complaint filed by Rubio in 2010 that the Spanish television channels had violated her right to privacy. “The fact that she could have benefited from media attention did not authorize TV channels to broadcast unchecked comments about her private life.
Details of the case posted on the European Court of Human Rights web site said that the decision relied on on Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which covers the “right to protection of reputation.”
“The national authorities had…a duty to assess the TV programs in question in order to distinguish between and to weigh in the balance those matters which were intimately part of Ms Rubio’s private life and those which might have had a legitimate public interest,” read the decision of the Strasbourg, France-based court, which chastised officials in Spain, where a similar case had previously been dismissed by a Madrid judge.
The decision continued, “The Court observed that the national authorities had not carefully weighed those rights and interests in the balance, but had merely taken the view that the comments in question had not impugned Ms. Rubio’s honor. They had not examined the criteria to be taken into account in order to make a fair assessment of the balance between the right to respect for freedom of expression and the right to respect for a person’s private life.”
In 2005, the Mexican, Miami-based pop singer had brought a civil action suit in Madrid court against her former assistant manager, Fran José Benedicto, as well as various television presenters and staff members, television production companies and television stations. The complaint, which referred to remarks made by Benedicto and others, was dismissed by the Madrid judge in 2007. In his decision, that judge noted that “rumors about [Rubio’s] lesbianism existed for years in Iberoamerica,” therefore they “no longer were private.” Rubio’s attempts to appeal the Madrid court’s decision against were not successful.
In question in the case in Spain and the European Court complaint were “ironic and burlesque” comments made in 2005 on three Spanish celebrity gossip shows, Dónde Estás Corazón on Antena 3, and Aquí Hay Tomate and Crónicas Marcianas, both on Telecinco. All popular programs — which have since gone off the air — they were emblematic of celebrity gossip shows, which in Spain are often called telebasura, or “telegarbage.”
“In the Court’s opinion, it was clear that the guests on the program only mentioned and discussed the singer’s private life, focusing on details that were considered to be lewd,” read the European court’s decision. At the time the programs’ hosts and their guests roasted Rubio, she was dating Ricardo Bofill, the son of a prominent Spanish architect. The comments about Rubio included gossip that the singer had encouraged Bofill’s drug addiction.
“The spreading of unverified rumors or the limitless broadcasting of random comments on any possible aspect of a person’s daily life could not be seen as harmless,” the court found in a unanimous decision. “Even assuming that there had been a public interest, in parallel to the commercial interest of the television channels in broadcasting the programs, the Court found that those interests were trumped by a person’s individual right to the effective protection of his or her privacy.”
No damages were awarded by the court, which noted that Rubio had not “submitted a request for just satisfaction within the time-limit.”